“Children who are legally too young to give consent to treatment must still be treated as individuals whose rights as members of society are not solely dependent on the legal definition of the day. Every child shall be protected from unnecessary medical treatment.”
J.P. Shield and Baum J.D., British Medical Journal

View full article in the British Medical Journal.

What are the legal issues surrounding circumcision?

What can be done legally to protect children from non-therapeutic genital cutting?

What are the barriers to effective use of the law against non-therapeutic genital cutting of children?

What are the legal implications of performing non-therapeutic genital cutting of children?

What legal options exist for men affected by circumcision?


The practice of circumcision stands uneasily at the intersection between medicine, culture, and the law. We here provide links, articles, and videos to explore the legal issues associated with non-therapeutic genital cutting of children.

For more information for medical professionals and students, see our page on Conscientious Objection.

For more on human rights law, see our page on Circumcision and Human Rights.

Legal links and resources

Attorneys for the Rights of the Child. www.arclaw.org

Circumcision: your legal rights. A pamphlet from Attorneys for the Rights of the Child.

Legal articles

Svoboda JS. Adler PW, Van Howe RS. Circumcision is unethical and unlawful. J Law Med Ethics. 2016;44:263-282.

Adler P. Is circumcision legal? 16 Rich J L & Pub Int 439 (2013)

Svoboda JS. Circumcision of infants as a human rights violation. J Med Ethics. 2013;39(7):469-74.

Svoboda JS. Tortured bodies, tortured doctrine: informed consent as a legal fiction inapplicable to neonatal male circumcision. In: Denniston GC, et al., editors. Genital cutting: protecting children from medical, cultural, and religious infringement. Dordrecht (Netherlands): Springer Science+Business Media; 2013. p. 1-28.

Geisheker JV. The completely unregulated practice of male circumcision: human rights’ abuse enshrined in law? New Male Studies. 2013;2(1):18-45.

Merkel R, Putzke H. After Cologne: male circumcision and the law. Parental right, religious liberty or criminal assault? J Med Ethics. 2013;39(7):444-9.

Marshall W. Non-therapeutic male circumcision. Hobart (Australia): Tasmania Law Reform Institute; 2012 Aug.

Geisheker JV. Boys should be protected, as girls are. New York Times website. 2012 Jul 11.

Adler P. Is it legal to use Medicaid to pay for circumcision? 19 J Law Med 335-53 (2011).

Svoboda JS, Darby R. A rose by any other name? Rethinking the similarities and differences between male and female genital cutting. Med Anthropol Q. 2007;21(3):301-23.

Fox M, Thomson M. Short changed? The law and ethics of male circumcision. Int J Children’s Rights. 2005;13:161-81.

Svoboda JS, Van Howe RS, Dwyer JC. Informed consent for neonatal circumcision: an ethical and legal conundrum. 17 J Contemp Health Law & Policy 61 (2000).

Boyle GJ, Svoboda JS, Price CP, Turner JN. Circumcision of healthy boys: criminal assault? 7 J Law Med 301 (2000).

Gianetti RM. Circumcision and the American Academy of Pediatrics: should scientific misconduct result in trade association liability? Iowa Law Rev 85(4):1507-68 (2000).

Van Howe RS, Svoboda JS, Dwyer JG, Price CP. Circumcision: the legal issues. BJU Int. 1999;83(Suppl 1):63-73.

Price CP. Male non-therapeutic circumcision: the legal and ethical issues. In: Denniston GC, et al., editors. Male and female circumcision: medical, legal, and ethical considerations in pediatric practice. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers:1999. p. 425-454.

Povenmire R. Do parents have the legal authority to consent to the surgical amputation of normal, healthy tissue from their infant children? The practice of circumcision in the United States. 7 J Gender, Social Policy & the Law 87 (1998-1999).


Published July 2016