A German court ruling has stepped right into the middle of one of the most passionate debates among parents, by banning circumcision, except where medically necessary. The ruling, which only applies in the area of the city of Cologne, came down Tuesday. Males who are old enough to consent to the surgery would not be affected by the ban.
It was sparked by a case in which a doctor was charged with grievous bodily harm for circumcising a four-year-old Muslim boy, who later had to be hospitalized for severe bleeding. The doctor charged in the original case was eventually acquitted on appeal because of the legal confusion about circumcision laws, but the court said that it wanted to clarify the “confusing” law.
Jewish and Muslim groups immediately protested the ruling. The Central Council of Jews in Germany said the ruling was an “unprecedented and dramatic intrusion” of the right to religious freedom. “Circumcision for young boys is a solid component of the Jewish religion and has been practiced worldwide for millennia. This religious right is respected in every country around the world," President Dieter Graumann said in a statement.
The Central Council of Muslims was equally outraged, saying, “Freedom of religion is highly valued in our constitution and cannot be the play-thing of a one-dimensional case law which, furthermore, consolidates existing prejudices and stereotypes."
But the court ruling disagrees: “The fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighs the fundamental rights of the parents.” It also stated that “the religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their child would not be unacceptably compromised, if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised.”
Ali Demir, Chairman of the Religious Community of Islam in Germany, said that if circumcision were to be banned in all of Germany it would lead to “circumcision tourism” to neighbouring European countries.
Does the parents’ right to religious freedom outweigh the child’s right to bodily autonomy?
The Wonderful Cynthia Hill is filling in this week so our hard-working Mummy Buzz can take a much-needed break.
In between ballet lasses, Glee Club lessons, swimming lessons, and karate lessons (none of them hers), mom of four Cynthia Hill works full-time as an administrative assistant, does the occasional community theatre production, edits other people's stuff, and writes her own, like her novel, Idol Hands. Her new book should be available later this summer.