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 94.

    @74: Never have I had to call Godwin's Law so soon on a thread.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    @ 24 David
    You are suggesting that Germany is targetting religious groups, for what reason would they do this?
    The real issue here is
    "is it ok to perform a non essential medical procedure on an individual without the exclusive permission of the individual themselves"
    Regardless of where you fall in this argument, for the sake of safeguarding an individuals rights, it is a valid question

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    It's good to see some sense coming out of Germany here!

    Noone has a right to mutilate someone's body - especially even before the person is old enough to make thier own informed decision.

    Similar ruling here please!

  • Comment number 91.

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

  • Comment number 90.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    this is absolutely ridiculous!. the World Health Organization says there is "compelling evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60%"

    amazing how many uneducated atheist who say that science is their religion yet have no understanding of science.

  • Comment number 88.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    I live in the 21st century . religon = witchcraft = not for me I am a free thinking individual with all my bits and bobs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    how many people are going to claim this type of harm is 'religious practice'? fair play to the Germans for getting this right, and yes i do come from a jewish family

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Good for the Germans ! It's about time that this brutal and primative procedure was banned. Chopping off a young child's foreskin when they are too young to give proper, informed consent is nothing short of disgraceful. Just because it has been going on for thousands of years doesn't make it correct. Doing it for "Health" reasons is a poor excuse too - leave it alone & try washing properly

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    You've got to give it France and Germany, they stand up for their own cultures. France banned the headscarf and now Germany opposing circumcision. In the UK we happily allow the Kosher and Halal killing of animals who are not stunned. All in the name of 'religious' tolerance. It's time we said if you live in our country you do as we do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    In today's European multicultural societies we really are going to have to be a little more tolerant of the different customs, practices and of the various ethnic and religious groups. To decribe them as 'obsolete ancient rituals' is to use language deliberately chosen to provoke antagonism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Standard problem of religious bigotry - Atheists will suffer no faith but their own and try to force others to obey their belief structures as divine, self-evident writ.
    I guess they will grow up one day, and hopefully they won't take as long as some Christians did, but one can but wonder how many people will have to suffer from this narrow minded intolerance first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    George Tetley (52) "what use a foreskin has"

    1) Covers the glans of the penis, greatly reducing any tactile stimulation during the day. No foreskin - more stimulation - the glans skin gets thicker + less sensitive.

    2) There are about 35,000 nerve endings in the foreskin of great variety. How would you like (for example) the nerve endings in your fingertips to be removed? Or in your retinas?

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Something is finally being done to stop circumcision, but it still needs to be stopped in other countries. At least its a start. There's no reason for circumcision its just an unnccesary mutilation. Even though i've been brought up as a muslim, I oppose circumcision strongly. I don't think a parent has a right to do that to a helpless baby.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Until a child has reached an age at which he can make a reasoned decision about which religion, if any, he wishes to follow he should not be labelled as belonging to any particular faith. And bits of his body should not be hacked off him while he is still too small to object - or to punch the hacker in the teeth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    An argument is put forward that WW2's Nazis were somehow different from Germans. The fact that Germans slaughtered millions cannot be excused by referring to their politics.

    Again, German Law discriminates on racist grounds.

    The thing that makes this exceptionally evil is that it suggests Germany's administration is still prejudiced against Jews - and has just added Muslims to this evil agenda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    To me, removing such a sensitive part of a child's genitals without their consent is wrong. If children grow up and decide they want the procedure, fine, but they have to be old enough to make an informed decision. And to those making points about HIV, circumcision only prevents 50% of infections. Condoms are much more effective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    "an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination".

    It is not self-determination when you are forcing a permanent change on a minor, only if the person affected the process is old enough to make an informed decision to do it for themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    I just cannot get my head around why some people want to live in 2012 adhering to rules that were written in a book (or books) in the middle east thousands of years ago. Mankind has moved on in so many ways yet some people still want to cut off bits of male and female genitals.


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