Friday, 5 October 2012

Germany to legislate to protect right of parents to circumcise boys

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Earlier this year, a regional court in Cologne sparked a worldwide debate over the issue of male circumcision when it ruled that it constitutes "bodily harm" and "a violation of physical integrity" which is not outweighed by the parents' "right to religious upbringing of their children".

Now, the Guardian reports that the German government is to legislate to safeguard the right of parents to have the procedure performed on their male children. In a move the paper says is designed to "appease the Jewish and Muslim communities angered by a court ruling", the proposed bill will allow "circumcision to be carried out on boys up to six months old by a doctor or someone as 'skilled as a doctor'."

While new legislation would draw a line under the legal controversy in Germany, it is unlikely to end the debate over circumcision. The Cologne case led to impassioned arguments between opponents and defenders of the procedure, not least here on the New Humanist blog, where our post on the story became one of the most commented on that we've ever run. While some pointed to religious freedom and the supposed health benefits of circumcision as reasons to oppose a ban, many argued that it is a dangerous procedure which constitutes a violation of a child's human rights, and 88 per cent of those who voted in our poll on the issue said that it should be banned.

We subsequently ran a fascinating examination of the arguments in our current issue by Toby Lichtig, a secular Jew who has first-hand experience of debating the ethics of circumcision within his own family – if you'd like to explore the subject in more detail, it's a highly recommended read.
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