Germany passes law to protect circumcision after outcry

BERLIN Wed Dec 12, 2012 12:12pm EST

1 of 3. Protestors wearing overalls daubed with red paint on the genital area, demonstrate against male circumcision, in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin December 12, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski

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BERLIN (Reuters) - German politicians passed a law on Wednesday to protect the right to circumcise infant boys in a show of support for Muslims and Jews angered by a local court ban on the practice in May.

The ban - imposed on the grounds that circumcision amounted to "bodily harm" - triggered an emotional debate over the treatment of Jews and other religious minorities, a sensitive subject in a country still haunted by its Nazi past.

The outcry prompted Germany's centre-right government and opposition parties to draw up legislation confirming the practice was legal - overruling the decision by a court in the western city of Cologne.

The new law passed by an overwhelming majority in Bundestag lower house said the operation could be carried out, as long as parents were informed about the risks.

Jewish groups welcomed the move.

"This vote and the strong commitment shown ... to protect this most integral practice of the Jewish religion is a strong message to our community for the continuation and flourishing of Jewish life in Germany," said Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress.

Germany's Catholic Bishops Conference said it hoped the bill would help safeguard religious freedoms. No comment was immediately available from the country's Central Council of Muslims.

PAIN MINIMISED

The May ruling centered on the case of a Muslim boy who bled after the procedure and the ban only applied to the area around Cologne.

But some doctors in other parts of Germany started refusing to carry out circumcisions, saying it was unclear whether they would face prosecution.

Under the new law, a doctor or trained expert must conduct the operation and children must endure as little pain as possible, which means an anesthetic should be used. The procedure cannot take place if there is any doubt about the child's health.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said no other country in the world country had made the religious circumcision of boys an offence.

"In our modern and secular state, it is not the job of the state to interfere in children's' upbringing," she said.

Child welfare group Deutsche Kinderhilfe disagreed, saying the government had "(pushed) through the legalization of the ritual of genital circumcision ... against the advice of child right campaigners and the medical profession."

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Edited by Stephen Brown and Andrew Heavens)

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Comments (8)
JLC981 wrote:
Double-standards and self-contradiction. Let’s see how this move plays out, as it quite literally goes against Germany’s Common Law. Special pleading. What’s next? Sharia Law to appease the Muslims?

Dec 12, 2012 2:05pm EST  --  Report as abuse
ml66uk wrote:
It’s illegal to cut off a girl’s prepuce, or to make any incision on a girl’s genitals, even if no tissue is removed, and even if the parents think it’s their religious right or obligation. Even a pinprick is banned.

Why don’t boys get the same protection? Everyone should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want parts of their genitals cut off. It’s *their* body.

Dec 12, 2012 3:28pm EST  --  Report as abuse
It’s unfortunate that a terrible past can cause people to forget what preventing forced circumcision is about: Every man (Jew Muslim or otherwise) has the right to his body. If you draw a religious line around it, you are saying that Jewish and Muslim boys have LESS RIGHTS than other boys. What about the child’s religious freedoms? What of his right to refuse amputation of his perfectly healthy body parts? Germany allows no forced genital cutting for simple whim, why then for tradition or beliefs about god? Fear of being called intolerant should not interfere with protecting equal rights.

Dec 12, 2012 4:13pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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