Ritual Male Circumcision: Quo Vadis?

Esther I. J. Erlings

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter considers recent socio-legal developments with regard to circumcisions performed for religious and cultural reasons [‘ritual male circumcision’ (RMC)], driven by evolving understandings of children’s interests and well-being and parental rights or care. The chapter notes a convergence in approach based on international law and case studies of England, Germany and The Netherlands that focuses on medicalisation, parental consent and strict boundaries stated by civil and criminal law. National courts play an important role in this regard, as international bodies, governments, and higher courts are seeking to avoid having to pronounce themselves on the justifiability of RMC. It is argued that such avoidance is undesirable, and a wider societal discussion should be had that looks at matters including children’s physical and psychological well-being and concepts of autonomy (each discussed in this chapter). Prospects for such a debate are nonetheless undermined by hypocrisy on the part of those who wish to ban RMC but not other non-therapeutic interventions on children’s healthy bodies, and rising xenophobia, which undercuts the mutual respect required for a genuine reconsideration of RMC.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChild Safety, Welfare and Well-being
Subtitle of host publicationIssues and Challenges
EditorsSibnath Deb
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-16-9820-0
ISBN (Print)978-981-16-9819-4
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Male circumcision
  • ritual
  • myths
  • misconceptions
  • Misconceptions
  • Myths
  • Ritual


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