Chapter

The Obligation to Abolish Traditional Practices Harmful to Health

John Tobin

in The Right to Health in International Law

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199603299
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731662 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199603299.003.0009
The Obligation to Abolish Traditional Practices Harmful to Health

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International law imposes an obligation on States to abolish traditional practices harmful to health. This chapter seeks to examine the nature of this obligation, the types of practices to be abolished and the measures required of States to achieve this end. It argues that the prejudice of a particular practice to health cannot be reduced to a simple bio-medical assessment and the broader psycho-social impacts and significance of a practice must be taken into account. It also identifies evidence of a cultural and gender bias in the identification of practices deemed harmful to health in the work of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Finally, the practice of female genital cutting is used to demonstrate that rather than adopt a simple legislative regime based on zero tolerance, a multifaceted approach, which is generated through dialogue with the communities that tolerate harmful practices, must be adopted if the effective elimination of harmful practices is to be achieved.

Keywords: health practices; cultural practices; female genital cutting; male circumcision; cultural relativism

Chapter.  12343 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

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