Fury erupts over circumcision ban
JEWISH and Islamic groups in Germany have slammed a court decision in the city of Cologne which outlaws circumcision on young boys, saying it amounts to “illegal bodily harm” and is therefore a crime.
The ruling has brought down the wrath of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, a body politicians and the judiciary try to placate as often as possible given the history of the Holocaust.
Dieter Graumann, its president, said the verdict was “an unprecedented intervention in religious communities’ right to self-determination”.
He went on: “The book of Genesis instructs believers that men should be circumcised.
“Circumcision of newborn boys is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practiced worldwide for centuries.”
Islamist organisations also blasted the ruling and promised legal challenges.
The Cologne court ruled on Tuesday that child circumcision constituted “illegal bodily harm”, even with parental consent. It said the “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighs the fundamental rights of the parents”.
The case came about after a four-year-old Muslim boy’s circumcision led to him checking back into hospital days later with severe bleeding.
Prosecutors charged the physician – identified under German law only as Dr K – who carried out the operation at the parents’ request, with grievous bodily harm.
The court acquitted the doctor, however, saying he did not know the procedure was illegal, so it would have been a miscarriage of justice to sentence him.
The verdict, unless it is overturned at appeal in a higher court, is likely to serve as precedent in future cases, making future guilty verdicts possible.
“A child’s body is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision,” the court said. “This change contravenes the interests of the child to decide later about his own religious affiliation.”
The World Health Organisation estimates that roughly a third of men in the world are circumcised.
Many are Muslims or Jews circumcised for religious reasons, but some parents also choose to circumcise their boys on health and hygiene grounds.
The court also said that circumcision on medical grounds was not illegal.
German doctors performing circumcisions that are not medically necessary have up to this point operated in an uncertain legal zone. Until now they could claim that they were unaware that performing a circumcision is a crime.
“The ruling is enormously important above all for doctors because it’s the first time that they have a legal certainty,” said Holm Putzke of the University of Passau.
Mr Putzke, who has been calling for prohibition for years, added: “The court has, in contrast to many politicians, not allowed itself to be scared of being criticised as antisemitic or opposed to religion.
“This decision could not only affect future legal rulings, but in the best case it could lead to a change of consciousness among the affected religions when it comes to respecting the basic rights of children.”
Appeals from Jews and Muslims – for once on the same side – could lead all the way to the Federal Constitutional Court, Germany’s highest.
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