This will be the sixth anniversary of the "Cologne Ruling". In 2012, for the first time, a court explicitly granted boys the right to genital self-determination by concluding that medically unnecessary foreskin removal ("circumcision") from a boy is an offense. This decision has since become a worldwide beacon for the self-determination of children regardless of gender, ancestry or religion.
This year's main focus is:
Millions of girls are victims of genital mutilation in Asia. Most of these cases are religiously motivated and are carried out by medical personnel. The people responsible are distancing themselves explicitly from African practices with regard to the form of the intervention. The 7th of May takes a closer look: because it stands for "zero tolerance" for violation of children's rights!
The "World Day of Genital Autonomy" calls for:
Far too little is known about female genital mutilation (FGM) in Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, other than the fact that it is widespread. Because of known cases in the Muslim sect Dawoodi Bohra which originates from India and Pakistan a doctor in the USA has been indicted and is curently on trial. As in Africa, the practice is a taboo topic in Asia, is treated extremely discreetly and similarly "justified": the girls should be "pure" or have their sexuality controlled. This practice is often considered a religious duty in Asia and is performed in clinics by doctors. Type I and Type IV (see below) are the most common. Here, either the clitoris (or the clitoral foreskin) is removed or other practices are done such as pricking of the clitoris, the "smoking" of the vagina or a swabbing with a cotton ball instead. Media reports deny that this is a case of mutilation - which clearly contradicts WHO statements.
Female genital mutilation is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) into four categories, from light to extreme. According to the WHO, female genital mutilation refers to all practices in which the outer genitalia are partly or completely removed, as well as to all other injuries to the female genitalia that are not medically indicated. Depending on the motives and category of cutting, the intervention leads to health, psychological, social and economic consequences for the affected parties. Female genital mutilation is internationally considered a human rights violation; gender specific violence; child abuse; and bodily assault; and is explicitly illegal in most countries. Female genital mutilation is a prevalent procedure: it is practised in 30 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as in South-, South-East- and Central Asia. Worldwide, approximately 200 million women and girls are affected. More than 500.000 of them live in Europe; 58.000 in Germany alone. Three million women and girls in Africa, 180.000 in Europe and 13.000 in Germany remain at risk every year. The procedure is commonly done between the ages of 4 and 12 years.
The trivializing term “circumcision” stands for the amputation of the foreskin of the penis, which involves the loss of approximately 50% of the entire penile skin - including the parts most sensitive for sexual stimulation - and irreversibly alters the natural physiology of the penis and its appearance. Possible psychological late effects have also increasingly been documented.
Currently, about 600 million to 1.2 billion males worldwide are affected, based on tradition, religion or, most recently, highly negligent HIV prevention programs in Africa. Foreskin amputation has become a mass phenomenon only in cultures and societies where it is performed on children, meaning without the mature and informed consent of the person who solely has to endure the assault and live with the consequences forever. This is particularly the case in the United States of America and parts of Africa and Asia. Little known in the Western world is the fact that around 65,000 boys in Africa are likely to be seriously injured every year and that several hundred boys do not survive this ritual.
Total foreskin removal is medically avoidable except in very rare cases.
A snug or non-retractile foreskin does not constitute a medical condition in children and adolescents if a boy has no painful obstruction, which is a rare condition. Usually the opening becomes wider until the end of puberty. In instances of an actual medical condition, most cases can be treated non-invasively.
One or two out of every 1000 children are born with "atypical" sexual characteristics. Time and again this leads to early genital operations to “assign” a gender, and to hormonal treatments before capacity to consent. The affected persons often report feeling altered and resentful that their input was never sought about their own sex.
All German paediatric associations currently recommend delaying those measures to an age where the person affected is able to give informed consent. On the international level, as well, the technical discussion is moving in this direction. However, physical integrity and self-determination must still be integrated into practice in many places.
For 20 years, people affected have been publicly protesting these surgeries, which they describe in terms of fundamental human rights violations, as being traumatising and as destructive to sexual sensation. These are allegations that are also backed by human rights committees like the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC).
On May 7th, 2012, the Regional Court of Cologne ruled that a non-therapeutic "circumcision" of a boy who is unable to give consent qualifies as an assault. This was logically consistent because, in Germany, children had rights to an unharmed body and a non-violent upbringing – why should these rights exclude genitalia, and exclusively male ones at that?
A human rights violation becomes a legal part of upbringing
The German Bundestag decided on 12.12.2012, in a rushed proceeding in response to the Cologne ruling, that parents can assent for any reason to a "circumcision" of their boys. This is a complete contradiction to the full legal protection of children and is discordant with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in multiple ways.
Our info-page can be found HERE. It contains onward links to specific literature from Germany, Turkey, the USA and other countries; case histories of affected people; films; educational books and brochures; and videos from speeches by international scientists.
We strongly object to any attempts to misconstrue our efforts on behalf of the rights of all children to genital self-determination, or to misuse these efforts as a basis to profess or carry out hatred toward religious and cultural minorities. We urge all participants to clearly distance themselves from generalizations and animosity and to be absolutely clear that this is solely about the well-being, bodily integrity, and right to self-determination of children.