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 54.

    I also wanted to add that condoms and a consistent safe sex policy will prevent HIV infection. I also know many uncircumcised men who are quite happy with their members. And Mr. Solomon, you are clearly ├╝ber-sensitive when it comes to Germans. The guilty Germans, otherwise known as Nazis, are dead and gone. Please update your history and don't judge modern Germany by the actions of dead Nazis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Wow a lot of mixed opinion here! In my mind I think it should be postponed until the child is of able mind to decide if they wish to follow that religion and it's practices. If it is carried out for religious reason at such an early age it's just shoving that religion and its views down the child's throat. Forced religion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Why oh why is it that only the uncircumcised males are commenting ?
    Perhaps they can explain what use a foreskin has apart from housing germs and ah, particular smell ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    @jody74: I understand your point. However, if we side with the concept of evolution, whereby the development of the species has mutated in order to survive, then religious and health issues cannot feature. In this event, the forseskin would have disappeared a long, long time ago. It is still present on the human male for an evolutionary reason. Removing it violates the reason for its existence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Most peoples wisdom teeth have to be pulled because their modern jaws are too small. Just goes to show that nature isn't always perfect

    Would you leave a little baby harelipped just because he/she was born this way?

    Perhaps the foreskin is just such an atavism as a wisdom tooth.

    #45 Dr Bob
    Highly intelligent doctors tortured people in the concentration camps They showed a paucity of benignity

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    The medical argument is good. Jews for over 5,000 years have practised this procedure that is now proven to offer huge medical benefits, yet a German Court wants to ban it as as "bodily harm".

    Immunisation is of medical benefit, but sticking a needle into the child is also "bodily harm", yet no one seeks to ban it.

    The difference, of course, is that banning circumcision hurts Jews and Muslims.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Jews feel that a circumcision ban curbs religious freedom. But if a circumcised boy rejects religion as an adult, what then? Circumcision is permanent. Done in the name of religion, they deny the child's right to make such decisions later on. That freedom, to choose for yourself, is the cornerstone of democracy. This societal right must supersede the subjective beliefs and practices of religion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Petra Pantea

    Circumcising a girl is mutilation. Circumcising a boy is healthy.
    When he's grown up he'll be grateful.

    I love your arrogance! Thank you so much for deciding what I will and will not like when I am older, just because you blindly think that your perverse ideas have more weight than an individuals right to choice.
    How very enlightening!

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    "37. Mike Solomons
    For those civilised people who argue against circumcision, look at the bible and look at medical science."

    Thanks for the tip, Mike, and you are right, looking at the Bible and looking at medical science does help civilised people to argue against circumcision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Mike Solomons Be very careful criticising a country or a race, you cite the Germans rather than a bunch of Nazis. In Israel there are Jews who are appalled at the Nazis in their midst who behave in a similar abominable manner to Palestinians. Your inept argument is poorly constructed and indicates paucity of intellect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    #36 Daniel Milloy

    ...if pigs could fly...

    Women are circumcised not to make them better in bed but to make them hate sex so that they stay faithful. Totally different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Surely, as a follower of the Aztec religion I should have my right to perform a blood soaked, human sacrifice protected because of religious freedom laws?
    At some point we have to side with the 21st century and say some religious practices are simply barbaric and unacceptable today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    @brendanlynch I know this is a hugely sensitive issue but I just wanted to point to the medical evidence for the benefits of the procedure too. If this procedure is stoping the spread of disease then surely we have recognise that it can be beneficial.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    #25 Arthur Daley
    You will easily find all the relevant data on the net. 400 characters unfortunately are not sufficient to present it here.
    You mentioned 'sexual preference',that is not the right word.
    All the women I've spoken with on the subject, agreed that a circumcised man has more stamina.
    Circumcising a girl is mutilation. Circumcising a boy is healthy.
    When he's grown up he'll be grateful

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Mike Solomons Brilliant in one short statement you have given a very valid reason for the removal of the most inconsequential, anti democratic, anachronisms in the 21st century. Religion and the Crown. More power to your elbow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Ritual circumcision of male children contravenes human rights. It is an offence against civilised values for women to go around in the street with only their eyes showing. But it simply isn't worth trying to do anything about it. Why poke sticks into hornets' nets? Leave well alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    There is no god, all religion is out-and-out nonsense. No child should be poisoned by bronze-age myth, either physically or mentally.

  • Comment number 37.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    @19. Petra Pantea - "As a woman I can only say a circumcised man is much better in bed, and that their wives have a much lower rate of cervical cancer"

    Many men in this world believe a circumcised woman is better but does that change your point of view on female circumcision? If it lowered the rate of testicular cancer in men, would that change your view? No? Neither does yours change mine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    #1 Solomons: Congratulation to first and without a doubt dumbest comment on here.

    Also why the hell does everyone keep going on about German Jews? There are far more German muslims to whom this will be an issue. However, neither group is eligible to special "Extrawurst" rights based on religion. The children concerned can decide whether they want to be circumcised when they come of age.


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