No Male circumcision and genital mutilation for children – Constitution group

The Thematic Working Group on Human Rights, Civil and Political have amended clause 5 (d) of article 55 to protect children from discrimination, neglect, abuse and cultural rites and practices including female genital mutilation, circumcision and body mutilation and to be protected from marriage before attaining adulthood.

This means that under the new constitution, if it comes into effect, children will have powers to sue parents who force them into undergoing male circumcision or genital mutilation and other cultural rites that are currently practiced by some tribes in Zambia.

The amendment of the clause further means that male circumcision which medical experts internationally have accepted as not harmful if conducted by experts will be stopped for fear of breaching the law.

Debating the clause at the ongoing National Constitution Convention, a medical expert Whyson Munga argued that male circumcision is medically recommended as one of the ways of reducing chances of acquiring diseases such as AIDS but his argument was shot down by delegates who wanted children protected from such rites.

Dr Munga who is also President of the Resident Doctors Association of Zambia contended that amending the clause to include the protection of children from undergoing male circumcision was retrogressive as parents have the rights to decide on behalf of their children.

He said male circumcision is not harmful to children as long as it is done by medical experts in a medical facility such as hospitals or health centre.

Clause 5 (d) of Article 55 states that every child has a right to be protected from discrimination, neglect, abuse, and harmful cultural rites and practices including female genital mutilation and body mutilation and to be protected from marriage.

And the thematic group has amended clause 5 (c) to provide that every child should have a right to free primary education instead of what is provided for in the First Draft Constitution that every child has a right to free basic education.

The working group has also retained clause 5 (g) of the same article to banish corporal punishment or any other form of violence, or cruel and inhuman treatment, in the homes, schools and any institution responsible for the care of children.

All Thematic Working Groups are today expected to complete their tasks by the close of the day so that from tomorrow when the groups reconvene up to Wednesday next week the plenary will be considering resolutions from the working groups and either retain, amend, of delete what the groups have recommended on various articles and clauses.

ZANIS