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Print this pageHARMFUL TRADITIONAL PRACTICES: Call for Information




International NGO Council on Violence Against Children

Resource type:

News release


The International NGO Council on Violence against Children needs your help in identifying harmful traditional practices affecting children and also good legal frameworks and other measures to challenge and eliminate them.

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Call for information on harmful traditional practices affecting children’s rights


Our aim is to promote a rights-based and comprehensive discussion of the definition of HTPs and how to eliminate them effectively. We hope you will respond by sending us, or linking us to:

  • papers, reports and discussions on HTPs;

  • as full a list as possible of what you consider to be harmful traditional practices in your state/region and any comments on the definition of “harmful traditional practices”;

  • positive legal frameworks and other measures adopted to challenge and work towards the elimination of HTPs, together with any assessments of their effectiveness.


Please send materials, references and comments – whenever possible in English - to, by April 15 2012 at the latest. Please inform us clearly if any of the material you send, or the source of it, is confidential.


The International NGO Council (see is preparing a major report on prohibition and elimination of harmful traditional practices (HTPs), for presentation in New York during October’s UN General Assembly debates on children’s rights and violence against children. We will keep you informed of the work and ensure you receive an electronic copy of the final report. We will also contribute to an expert consultation on HTPs being organised in summer 2012 by the office of the Special Representative to the UNSG on Violence against Children (Marta Santos Pais) and – hopefully – to a General Comment being prepared jointly by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee to Eliminate Discrimination against Women.


The following is a non-exhaustive, illustrative list of harmful traditional practices which have been identified in various reports and debates:

  • Female genital mutilation/cutting;

  • Virginity-testing;

  • Male circumcision (some commentators have challenged it only when carried out by non-medical personnel and without appropriate hygiene and pain relief; others challenge it, when carried out on young children, as a gross invasion of physical integrity without consent);

  • Binding, breast ironing, scarring, burning, branding, coin-rubbing, tattooing, piercing;

  • A wide range of initiation ceremonies, some community/religious based, some linked to schools or other institutions, the priesthood, monasteries etc. These generally involve some forms of physical assault, direct or indirect, as well as degradation. Some involve sexual assault/exploitation;

  • Violent and/or humiliating forms of punishment/treatment: corporal punishment, isolation etc.;

  • Early and forced marriage;

  • HIV/AIDS “cleansing”;

  • So-called “honour” crimes; acid attacks, crimes committed in relation to bride-price and dowry;

  • Denouncing of children as witches or possessed by evil spirits;

  • Deliberate discriminatory treatment of children, often but not always involving various degrees of violence including extreme; and/or treatment or neglect prejudicial to health – including for example preferential feeding and/or care of male children; lack of care for children with disabilities;

  • Forms of treatment including extreme restriction of liberty for certain groups of disabled children – autism; children with albinism;

  • Bogus” forms of treatment/medication/diets not based on medical evidence; discrimination against children born on certain days; food taboos…

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Last updated 20/03/2012 15:25:06

Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.

Your Feedback

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Ntombi wrote on 23/08/2012:
Everybody, including children, has the freedom of choice over their lives. Therefore let them grow and make their choices in life. Stop enforcing beliefs onto children; only guide them so that they can make informed decions.

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Lana Kranz wrote on 13/05/2012:
Thank you so much for having this page. We need to end ALL abuse in our world. Even that which is considered OK in our society (shouldn't we start in our own backyards?!)

I support the abolishment of EVERYTHING you have written there even though the issue of circumcision may upset some people. Reading the other comments I agree with them. Young children cannot consent and it is permanently removing a part of themselves that they can never get back.

I don't believe that anyone should be able to carry out a circumcision on a minor. There's nothing wrong with giving EVERYONE a choice when it comes to their own body.

I didn't even know about some of the other stuff. Keep up the good work.

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Lynn wrote on 13/05/2012:
Thank you recognising circumcision (both male and female) and piercing as violation of children's rights!

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Alfred Schram wrote on 13/05/2012:
Thank you for including male infant circumcision, a practice which obviously violates the rights of boys.

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Jay Schmidt wrote on 17/03/2012:
Hey I'm very happy to see male infant circumcision is on your list. Every day thousands of young boys are brutally abused, but it's considered OK because it's done in a medical context. Please continue to raise awareness about this non-consensual cosmetic "procedure".

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Ron Low wrote on 16/03/2012:
Thanks for the list of harmful traditional practices. I think you need to get rid of the parenthetical bit about circumcision being bad when done by non-medical people. Forced non-therapeutic genital cutting is ALWAYS bad. I strongly resent and grieve the theft of a perfectly pleasure-receptive healthy normal body part.

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Liz Matthews wrote on 15/03/2012:
I am glad you have included male circumcision, as well as FGM, in your list of HTPs. I hope you will include ALL forms of male circumcision (done by both medical and non-medical personnel), as even religious 'reasons' for circumcision are a violation of a child's right to bodily integrity. The child should be able to decide for himself once he is an adult. Also, the use of pain relief does not make it okay...babies still feel pain even when pain relief is used (and not every doctor uses it), there is still risk of a botched result and death, and the child's rights are still violated. Thank you for the important work you are doing for children.

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Deniz C. wrote on 15/03/2012:
Due to its widespread acceptance we are culturally blind and cannot imagine circumcision as a "harmful traditional practice". However, it is exactly that. I am glad you included it on this list and do not cave in to pressure to protect this "holy ritual". We have human rights, and it is quite clear what they mean--security of the person, freedom of (and from) religion, personal autonomy and protection of children from harm. Children should be given the choice of whether they want to participate in this cultural tradition once they are of the age of majority, and can make a fully informed decision for themselves.

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