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Laws and Regulations Governing Scarification

posted on Mon, Feb 17 2014 2:37 pm by Mid-States Region

The Network was contacted by a program manager at a state health department, who was interested in the how states across the country are addressing the practice of scarification. Scarification is a process in which the skin is cut, etched, burned or branded into a design. There can be severe health risks like hemorrhaging and exposure to infection associated with scarification.

The state program manager asked if the Network could provide information about laws and regulations governing scarification in other states.

After extensive research, the Network produced a summary of laws defining and/or regulating scarification in all 50 states. The summary shows that states are either (1) explicitly allowing and regulating scarification by defining the practice or including it in a broader definition of "body art"; (2) not explicitly allowing scarification but, based on statutory language and interpretation, may have the authority to regulate or prohibit it as a practice; (3) expressly prohibiting it; (4) not expressly regulating scarification and/or the practice does not fit under any legally defined practice of body art or body modification.

For example, Kansas law prohibits a person from making “an indelible mark or figure on the body of another by scarring using scalpels or other related equipment” KSA § 65-1942(c)(1). In contrast, in Hawaii, scarification can be read into the definition of “tattooing” which means “to mark or to color the skin by pricking and introducing subcutaneously, non-toxic dyes, pigments, or by the production of scars to form indelible marks and figures.” WCHR 11-17-2. And, Arkansas lawmakers in 2013 included scarification in the legal definition of “body art.”

View 50-State Summary of Regulation of Scarification.