Declare practice of non-therapeutic circumcision on children as crime: PIL in Kerala HC

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Kerala High Court | Photo: Mathrubhumi

Kochi: A PIL has been filed before the Kerala High Court seeking to declare the practice of non-therapeutic circumcision on children as a violation of children's rights, illegal, cognizable, and non-bailable offence.

The PIL has been filed by Non-Religious Citizens (NRC) and five other persons.

They also sought to issue a direction in the nature of recommendation or suggestion or judicial advice or as a reminder call to respondents such as Union of India represented through cabinet secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice, State of Kerala and Law Secretary of Kerala.

The PIL also sought to issue an appropriate writ to the second respondent, ie the Ministry of Law and Justice to consider and take a decision on adequate legislation prohibiting circumcision.

The PIL further sought to issue any other appropriate writ, order or direction as this Court may deem fit in the appropriate stage.

The petitioners alleged that circumcision is a blatant violation of the fundamental rights of the children and that is a human rights violation of the children.

The petition further read that "the children are victims of this practice. The practice of this taboo is cruel, inhuman and barbarous and it violates the valuable fundamental right, "right to life" of the citizens under article 21 of the Constitution of India. If the state machinery fails in giving protection for the rights of the citizens, as a guardian of the constitution, the constitutional courts are bound to interfere in the matter."

Petitioners also contended that, "circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, which is the tissue that covers the head (glans) of the penis. It is an ancient practice that has its origins in religious rites. Today many parents have their sons circumcised for religious or other reasons. Circumcision is usually performed on the first or second day after birth. The procedure becomes more complicated and riskier in the case of children. The men may be given medicine to sleep during the procedure, but not in the case of children."

The plea further said circumcision leads to several health problems and one of them is trauma. Traumatic events are marked by a sense of horror, helplessness, serious injury or the threat of serious injury or death. Traumatic events include sexual abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence, community and school violence, medical trauma, motor vehicle accidents etc, it said.

Trauma in early childhood can result in disrupted attachment, cognitive delays and impaired emotional regulation. "The other risks or complications associated with circumcision are as follows: 1) Bleeding. 2) Penial infection. 3) Irritation of the exposed tip of the penis. 4) The Urethra, which leads from the bladder to the tip of the penis, can be damaged at its point of exit. 5) Scarring of the penis can occur. 6) Unintended removal of the outer skin layer of the penis. 7) A serious life-threatening bacterial infection," the plea stated.

The child shall have the right to believe or not believe in any particular religion and to follow or not to follow a particular practice or ritual, said the petition adding that the practice of circumcision is compelled to be done on the children, not as their choice, but as they are being compelled to be followed only because of the unilateral decision taken by the parents.

"A child should not be subjected to the whims and fancies of his or her parents. The children should have opportunities to choose a particular practice, belief or religion. But society is taking advantage of the incapacity and helplessness of the children. The rights and freedom of the children cannot be surrendered in accordance with the mere religious fanaticism and addictions of the parents. Only after reaching the age of majority should the child allowed to be choose any religious ritual," the plea said.


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