The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Brussels has adopted a resolution on children’s right to physical integrity – including female genital mutilation, the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons, and the submission to or coercion of children into piercings, tattoos or plastic surgery.

The resolution also called on on Council of Europe Member States to increase their knowledge on intersex people, and to provide families with intersex children with adequate counselling and support.

The resolution says that member states should ensure that no-one is subjected to unnecessary medical or surgical treatment that is cosmetic rather than vital for health during infancy or childhood, giving them autonomy and a right to self-determination to persons concerned. However, given a recent court case in Germany which temporarily put a halt to religious circumcisions for boys, it seems unlikely that heads will win over hearts.

This is the first resolution of its kind by any European institution. The language of the resolution signals a shift from the current medical domain to a human rights approach, and addresses the right to bodily integrity, autonomy and self-determination, while calling for the end of cosmetic medical and surgical treatment.

The resolution was cheered by ILGA-Europe, OII Europe and Genital Autonomy.