Dwarf tossing’ is a controversial activity which commonly occurs in settings such as pubs. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a dwarf as an ‘abnormally small person’. The term dwarf tossing is self-explanatory, it refers to an activity where a dwarf is clothed in padded attire and a helmet, then they are literally tossed and thrown around. It can also involve putting the dwarf in a harness and seeing how far they can be thrown.
The controversial nature of the activity tests the way in which human rights are applied to modern issues. The activity is construed by some as being degrading, but is considered to be performance art by others.
Is there any difference between a dwarf choosing to be involved in such activities and game shows involving people partaking in barbarous and degrading activities on television for the purpose of entertainment, or those who work in the circus for a living?
The activity of dwarf tossing has not been readily accepted by domestic law in various countries including Ireland, the United States of America and France. It was outlawed in the state of Florida in 1989 and subsequently there was an attempt to repeal this prohibition which failed.
Another example is the case of Manuel Wackenheim v. France (2002) involving the issue of dwarf tossing which was brought to the UN Human Rights Committee. The argument against dwarf tossing was on the basis of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This states that: ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’