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 34.

    The German court are right on the mark- let it be up to the boy/girl to have it done or not later in life, say when the are adult- 18 years old. If some "new age cult" told its member to have the little finger cut off- we would not allow it! Would we!

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    This subject has been festering for centuries. Just because some religious books say it is right doesn't make it right. The Jewish are matriacal so the women decide maybe because that is what they like and the Moslems patriarcal so the men must like it? Strange bunch if you ask me because they don't even ask the dispossessed their opinion. Mutilation is the correct term, same as for women.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    @jody74 . . . The issue here is not about H.I.V. or STDs. The issue is about a procedure which amounts to mutilation in the name of religion or religious beliefs and the right of the child to determine his or her own belief system. Let's not confuse the two.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    About time. Circumcision without medical necessity is indefensible. It is astounding that it is legal in any country calling itself civilised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    It is interesting to consider the young Jesus, who was circumcised in accordance with God's Law as applied at the time by his people, the Children of Israel, (the Jews).

    If it was right for Jesus and was in accordance with God's Law, who on earth today has the right to disregard or ban this Law?

    It applies to Jews, but is also a Law voluntarily followed by others, including our Royal Family.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Nobody should have to have their tails docked before they are old enough to decide for themselves!

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    "Oh look at him, isn't he perfect!........ No hand me the knife so I can slice off a bit of his penis."

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    1 million circumcisions have been performed over the last 4 years, three-quarters funded by the U.S. government. this is just 4% of the number of circumcisions needed in sub-Saharan Africa. It has been four years since randomized controlled trials definitively showed that circumcision can reduce HIV transmission by 60% (Reuters)

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I'm circumcised. I'm neither Jewish nor Muslim. For many years I have felt that I was mutilated or modified without my consent. My mother is a staunch Catholic who believes in the Almighty God. I asked how she reconciled her unwavering belief in the All Knowing Creator with an action that fundamentally criticised His perfect design? I didn't get an answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    19 Petra Pantea

    Your personal sexual preference has little to do with the rights of young boys not to mutilated

    By all means provide the data to support your contention that a cervical cancer rate is lower

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I think the issue is Germany outlawing part of the Jewish faith. That is a bit of a sensitive subject, whether circumcision is correct or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    An excellent decision by the German courts. Just because a child is born to a parent of a certain religion does not give the parents the right to stamp their religion on child. Circumsion is cruel and unnecessary. But the same can be said of any form of baptism - who are we to dertermine our children's religion. They should be allowed to make the decision as adults.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    A ruling of this kind is long overdue. Were it not for the religious backdrop then male genital mutilation would be widely regarded as an appalling act of permanent bodily harm against a defenceless baby and the perpetrators would be serving time for it. Ancient traditions, whatever their cultural origins, which involve permanent physical harm towards children have no place in the 21st century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Good. Now I hope they will blaze the trail to get rid of Halal and Kosha slaughter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Each baby arrives to huge fuss & so we have much unnecessary tension over 'doing the exactly right thing' for the newborn & young child. But if you pause & think,in wonder at this miracle of Perfection that any new life is (even with a disability!), Calmly, then of course there is no "need" to do anything "in the name of God" to "sanctify" what is Already Holy & Blessed!Just by virtue of Existing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I live in Germany, and the German government tries to control the private lives of its citizens down to the last detail. This is definitely not a country for the free and brave, this is the home of the patronized and the passive-aggressive.
    As a woman I can only say that a circumcised man is much better in bed, and that their wives have a much lower rate of cervical cancer among other diseases.

  • Comment number 18.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I was genitally mutilated as a child and the State did not protect me. This mutilation was in the name of my fatherĀ“s religion NOT mine. The State should always protect children against this. There is no reason for genital mutilation, there are only myths.
    I hope my parents and the medical personnel responsible for abusing me rot in hell for eternity (if there is a hell).
    Protect Children!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    There was a time when circumcision made sense for people living in water scarcity.There was a time when it was important for Identity & as a confirmation of Belonging. I believe those times are over. Modern society confers freedom to define Identity, Belonging without trauma. We recognise rights of women&young that did not exist when circ 1st adopted. We outlawed slavery. Positive changes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    This is not about race or religion, it is about protecting the rights of children. You cannot mutilate your childs body for any reason, this trumps religious freedoms. If for instance I decided that in my religion I was allowed to punch my child in the face, that would be illegal, and rightly so. Well done Germany.


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