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Sweden (Sverige) is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The 349-seat unicameral parliament is named the Riksdag,

Nordic view of non-therapeutic circumcision of boys.

Sweden is a Nordic nation in Northern Europe. Like other Nordic nations, the people abhor child non-therapeutic circumcision.

In 2013, children's ombudsmen from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland, along with the Chair of the Danish Children's Council and the children's spokesperson for Greenland, passed a resolution that emphasized the decision to be circumcised should belong to the individual, who should be able to give informed consent.[1]

The Nordic Association of Clinical Sexologists (2013) supports the position of the Nordic Association of Ombudsmen who reason that circumcision violates the individual's human rights by denying the male child his ability to make the decision for himself.[2]

Human rights

Council of Europe

Sweden became a founder member of the Council of Europe on 5 May 1949.[3] As a member of the Council of Europe, Sweden is subject to the European Convention on Human Rights[4] and is pledged to advance the enumerated rights in its territory. It may be sued in the European Court of Human Rights for violations of its duty.

The Right to Security of Person is provided by Article Five of the ECHR.

Resolution no. 1952 (2013) 'Children's right to physical integrity'[5] of the Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe, which includes the issue of physical integrity of intersex children for the first time, was adopted on October 1, 2013 following an initiative of the German SPD politician Marlene Rupprecht.[6]

The resolution includes other topics such as the female genital mutilation, the male circumcision for religious reasons, and the submission or coercion of a child to piercings, tattoos or cosmetic surgery.

The resolution calls on all member States to "examine the prevalence of different categories of non-medically justified operations and interventions impacting on the physical integrity of children in their respective countries, as well as the specific practices related to them, and to carefully consider them in light of the best interests of the child in order to define specific lines of action for each of them; initiate focused awareness-raising measures for each of these categories of violation of the physical integrity of children, to be carried out in the specific contexts where information may best be conveyed to families, such as the medical sector (hospitals and individual practitioners), schools, religious communities or service providers; [...]."

This first resolution of its kind by a European institution is not legally binding, but an important signal for further debate and action. It shifts the approach of the point of view of the topic from the current medical domain towards a human rights approach and identifies the right to bodily integrity, autonomy and self-determination. It calls the for the end of non-therapeutic cosmetic medical and surgical interventions.

Sweden has not yet acted to protect the rights of boys to security of person that is guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).


Sweden ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1972.

Article two

Article 2(1) of that covenant provides:

1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its Jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Some rights recognized by the Covenant relevant to the non-therapeutic circumcision of male children are:

Article seven

Degrading treatment

Article nine

Security of person

Article twenty-four

Every child shall have, without any discrimination as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property or birth, the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society and the State.

Sweden has covenanted to provide protection of these rights.[7]

Sweden has not complied with its pledge with regard to protection of the rights of boys which are violated by non-therapeutic child circumcision.


Sweden has been a state-party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) (CRC) since 20 June 1990,

Article two provides in part:

1. States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.[8]

This means that all children, male and female, and regardless of parental religious views, shall enjoy the same human rights.

Article twelve

Article twelve provides:

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.[8]

This means, with application to non-therapeutic circumcision, that the child, who is capable of expressing an opinion, shall have his views considered.

Article fourteen

Article fourteen provides:

1. States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

2. States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.

3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.[8]

This means that a child may express his or her religious views, even though those views may differ from those of his or her parents. This includes views related to male or female circumcision.

Article nineteen

Article nineteen provides:

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.

2. Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.[8]

Non-therapeutic male circumcision of male children have both been shown to cause great physical harm in the loss of the foreskin and its many protective, immunological, sexual, and sensory physiological functions. We now know that male circumcision causes sexual, and mental harm to its victims. Furthermore, the sexual and mental harm of non-therapeutic male circumcision is now well documented.

States, which are parties to this Convention, have a duty to protect children from such harm.

Article twenty-four

Article twenty-four has several paragraphs. Paragraph three is of special importance to male non-therapeutic circumcision which is a traditional practice that dates back to before the advent of recorded history.

Paragraph three provides:

3. States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.[8]

Male circumcision always results in the permanent and irreversible loss of the foreskin, a structure with protective, immunological, sexual, and sensory functions. The loss of the protective and immunological functions are harmful to physical health. The loss of the sensory and sexual functions are harmful to [sexual] and mental health. We have long known that non-therapeutic circumcision of children sometimes results in death. Douglas Gairdner (1949) reported circumcision caused nineteen deaths in England and Wales in 1946.[9] Bollinger (2010) estimated 117 deaths per year in the United States.[10]

The CRC was incorporated into the law of Sweden on 1 January 2020.[11] Nevertheless, actual practice seems not to have changed and Sweden still has not fulfilled its several promises to protect the human rights and physical integrity of boys.


Professor Yngve Hofvander presented a proposal for a law to regulate the practice of child non-therapeutic circumcision at the Sixth International Symposium at Sydney, Australia in 2000.[12]

The Riksdag enacted the circumcision law in 2001.

Non-therapeutic circumcision of boys under 18 years of age is regulated since 2001 by the "Lag (2001:499) om omskärelse av pojkar" (Law regarding circumcision of boys). According to it, such circumcisions are a surgical procedure and have to be carried out by a qualified doctor and under anaesthesia. For boys under 2 months of age, circumcision may also be carried out by another competent person with a government license. This applies to persons that have been nominated by religious groups in which circumcision is part of the religious tradition. Persons who perform a circumcision without the necessary qualification or license face a fine or prison sentence of up to six months. The circumcision requires the consent of the legal guardians. It may not be carried out against the child's will, if he has the age and level of maturity for such a statement.[13]

The 2001 circumcision law makes non-therapeutic child circumcision somewhat safer because a licensed medical doctor must be in attendance. It requires the use of anaesthesia so the extreme pain and trauma of child circumcision is reduced. However it stops short of protecting the human rights of the child. The child will still suffer harm due to the amputation of the multi-functional foreskin.

Sweden Democrats introduced a bill into the Riksdag on 24 September 2013 that would ban the non-therapeutic circumcision of boys.[14]

Recent developments

Sentiment against the involuntary, non-therapeutic circumcision of boys is growing.

Sweden has a very large number of political parties. None can get a majority in the Riksdag so a coalition of parties must be created in order to create a government.

Several parties have voted internally to favor a law that would prohibit non-therapeutic circumcision of boys:

  • The Centerpartiet (Centre Party) (C) voted in September 2019 to forbid the non-medical circumcision of boys.[15]
  • The popolist, conservative Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats) (SD), which is gaining popularity, supports a ban on non-therapeutic circumcision of boys.[16]

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson resigned after the 2022 election results became known to make way for a government by a four-party conservative coalition.[17]

Swedish conservative leader Ulf Kristersson was on Monday, 17 October 2022, elected prime minister in parliament as the head of a new government backed for the first time by the Sweden Democrats.[18]

See also


  1. REFweb Nordic Association of Children's Ombudsmen (30 September 2013). Let the boys decide for themselves. Retrieved 5 October 2020.[] Tuesday, 1 October 2013
  2. REFdocument Statement on Non-Therapeutic Circumcision of Boys PDF, Nordic Association of Clinical Sexologists. (3 October 2013). Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  3. REFweb Sweden // 47 States, one Europe. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  4. REFdocument European Convention on Human Rights PDF, Council of Europe. (1950). Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  5. REFdocument Children's right to physical integrity PDF, Parliamentary Assembly. (1 October 2013). Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  6. REFbook Aktor M (2016): 24, in: Whose Rights? The Danish Debate on Ritual Infant Male Circumcision as a Human Rights Issue. Work: Contemporary Views on Comparative Religion: In Celebration of Tim Jensen's 65th Birthday. Peter Antes, Armin W. Geertz, Mikael Rothstein (ed.). Sheffield: Equinox Publishing. Pp. 311-24. ISBN 9781781791394. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  7. REFdocument International Covenant on Civil and Political Right PDF, United Nations. (1967). Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  8. a b c d e REFdocument Convention on the Rights of the Child PDF, United Nations. (20 November 1989). Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  9. REFjournal Gairdner DMT. The fate of the foreskin: a study of circumcision. British Medical Journal. 1949; 2(4642): 1433-7. PMID. PMC. DOI. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  10. REFjournal Bollinger D, Boy's Health Advisory. Lost Boys: An Estimate of U.S. Circumcision-Related Infant Deaths. Thymos: Journal of Boyhood Studies. 26 April 2010; 4(1): 78-90. DOI. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  11. REFweb Convention on the Rights of the Child – new law in Sweden since Jan 1st. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  12. REFbook Hofvander Y (2001): Circumcision of Boys in Sweden: Proposal for Government Regulation. Work: Understanding Circumcision. George C. Denniston, Marilyn Fayre Milos, and Frederick Mansfield Hodges (ed.). New York: Springer. Pp. 147-51. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  13. REFjournal Hofvander, Yngve. New law on male circumcision in Sweden. Lancet. 16 February 2002; 359(9306): 630. PMID. DOI. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  14. REFweb (28 September 2013). Bill Introduced to ban circumcision.. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  15. REFweb (28 September 2019). Centern vill förbjuda omskärelse på pojkar [The center wants to prohibit circumcision on boys] (Swedish), Aftonbladed. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  16. REFnews Harris, Niamh (5 October 2018)."Sweden Democrats Party Calls For Ban On Circumcision", News Punch. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  17. REFnews (15 September 2022)."Sweden election: PM Magdalena Andersson resigns after right-wing victory", Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  18. REFnews (18 October 2022)."Swedish parliament elects new prime minister", Global Times. Retrieved 18 October 2022.