German court rules circumcision is 'bodily harm'

Scalpel Male circumcision is part of both Jewish and Muslim religious rituals

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A court in Germany has ruled that circumcising young boys for religious reasons amounts to bodily harm.

In a decision that has caused outrage among Jewish and Muslim groups, the court said that a child's right to physical integrity trumps religious and parental rights.

The case involved a doctor who carried out a circumcision on a four year-old that led to medical complications.

Thousands of Muslim and Jewish boys are circumcised in Germany every year.

Although male circumcision - unlike female circumcision - is not illegal in Germany, the court's judgement said the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents".

Circumcision, it decided, contravenes "interests of the child to decide later in life on his religious beliefs".

'Protect religious freedom'

The doctor involved in the case was acquitted and the ruling is not binding, but correspondents say it sets a precedent that would be taken into account by other German courts.

The president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, called it "an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination".

He urged the country's parliament to clarify the legal situation "to protect religious freedom against attacks".

Male circumcision is part of the ancient religious rituals of both the Jewish and Muslim faiths, as well as the traditions of some tribal groups.

In some countries, such as the United States, it is also not uncommon for parents to request that young boys are circumcised for health reasons.

The BBC's Stephen Evans in Germany says it is unclear what the next legal step will be, but this issue is a moral and political minefield.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    In Israel a group of wise physicians have been leading a powerful campaign to open people up to changing their views on circumcision. Many educated Jewish men oppose this mandatory practice.To suggest God would reject a man because he was not 'circ' implies that everyone out there(including Homer, Socrates, Mozart, Shakespeare) who was intact was 'inferior'& not included in God's Promise. Untrue!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    If your faith in your faith is so weak you have to mutilate your child before it is old enough to decide for itself then perhaps you ought to think it over a bit more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    @ awredams......Then let the child decide when they are sexually active, and not 3 hours old. The only ones offended here are jews and muslims. I dont hear any parents moaning for hygeine reasons. This is not a ban on circumcision

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    "The president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, called it "an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination"

    And the right of the child to self determination ?

    Religion should be a reasoned choice made by children/adults when they have all the facts not a brainwashing indoctrination from birth.

    Well done Germany

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    The issue is a minefield, indeed, but I commend the German court for taking a principled stand. Very tiny babies are unnecessarily traumatised when all that is needed in the 21st c is gentle, educated care for their body. Older boys also need to be allowed to grow up to make their own informed decision. There is insufficient medical oversight of these obsolete ancient religious rituals. Think!

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    But now the court has to hold its ground against all those 'offended' by the upholdig of the childs right not to be mutilated in the first days of its life. They're implying racist motives. They claim to be offended to get their own way. Its evil bullying and people are sick of it. Well done germany. If only Hitch was here xx

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I agree with khimaros. What gives a parent the right to mutilate a child without their consent. It would be deemed appaling if a parent sent a 3 year old for a tatoo?? And guess what a tatoo can be removed in later life if the child wishes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Circumcision of baby boys is a violation of their body, and a significant number of circumcised men wish they hadn't been. There is absolutely no reason why males, if they want to be circumcised, cannot choose as they enter manhood, as is oft the tradition for Jews and Muslims anyway. Circumcision at birth has nothing to do with freedom of religion of the person in question. I laud this decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Before you comment, Google circumcision,
    males that are circumcised are 87% less likely to contact, or carry sexual diseases, do you wash your hands after using the toilet ? next time wash under your foreskin, it the dirtiest part of your body !

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Finally logic wins through. My best friend was subject to religion circumcision as a child and has resented his parents his whole life for mutilating his body without his consent. This is not "blatant race prejudice" or "unacceptably evil". It is allowing the person affected to make a choice for themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Anyone familiar with bonafide studies of incidents of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, on "cut" versus "uncut" males is foolish and almost sadistic to disapprove of circumcision. What was once a religious rite for some, has become a health preventative of utmost necessity. Comparisons in Afrika and San Francisco have shown ratios of 9 and 10 to one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    @Mike Solomons... Germany has evolved to an extent that someone like me of African descent is happy that I can have a choice to keep my foreskin or get rid of it!

    This is about about the right to chose and not coffins and gas chambers.
    God bless Germany and my foreskin!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Living in Scotland and witnessing a young child being bribed into agreeing to their first holy communion with the offer of a computer game, I found deeply offensive.
    A child having his penis mutilated in the name of religion I consider abuse. It should be left until they are of an age to decide for themselves.
    Wake up people, religion is a fools game and you are wasting your lives!

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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