German Court Rules Circumcision a “Bodily Harm”

This week a court in Germany ruled that circumcising boys for religious reasons is “bodily harm.” The ruling came as a result of a court case about medical complications following the circumcision of a four-year-old boy. The doctor was acquitted, but apparently the court felt like stirring up a shit-storm anyway.  The ruling isn’t binding but it certainly sets a precedent.

Also, this happened in Germany. And circumcision of newborn boys has been a tradition in Judaism (amongst other religions and cultures) dating back thousands of years. Er, guys? You do remember the Holocaust, right? Don’t you think you might want to step a little more lightly when it comes to religious freedom, and in particular the religious freedom of Jewish people?

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  1. ANY circumcision, male or female is physical abuse upon the child and should be banned worldwide. In women it destroys their entire sexual sensations and in men the glans becomes atrophied and less sensitive.


  2. You know what reduces the contraction of HIV? Fn condoms. When faced with the decision to perform (what by all measures seems to be a remarkably painful) surgery on an infant and promoting temporary latex sheaths why are we deciding that promoting condoms is just too big a fight?

  3. Before we decide whether or not circumcision is a religious right we should be asking ourselves why it’s almost an automatic practice in the US. We’d go along way by simply flipping the hospital norm. Instead of going in preparing to circumcise an infant why don’t we switch to waiting until a parent requests a circumcision.

  4. The underlying question becomes who’s values should dictate in raising a child. A parent’s beliefs, or that of the state. These questions arise in all segments of society. Some parents do not want their children vaccinated under a belief that it is harmful. Other parents don’t want their children to have a secular education. Who should be making that choice, the state or the parents. In religious communities that practice male circumscion, this is not a choice, and comes down to fundamental values and beliefs.

    As for those who want to raise questions of its hygenic value, the religious practice, while having that compenent, is not undertaken for those reasons. You may want to raise that question for families choosing to circumsize their male children for non-religious purposes.

    On the other hand, the World Health Organization says that there is compelling evidence that male circumscion reduces heterosexual HIV infection in men by 60%. http://www.who.int/hiv/topics/malecircumcision/en/

  5. The “mediical benefits” of infant circumcision are exaggerated – slight reductions in rare diseases of late onset that can be better prevented by other means, or treated as they occur – when they are not completely bogus. Circumcision is a “cure” looking for a disease, an intervention in search of an excuse.

    The court considered the religious freedom of the parents carefully, and balanced it against the right of the child to decide for himself what parts of his own genitals to keep or have cut off, when he is old enough. (He almost always chooses to – surprise, surprise! – keep them all.) They rightly came down on the side of the rights of the genitals’ OWNER. And “Dad wants his son to look like him”? http://www.cafepress.com/intactivism.462085754

  6. David, I have intimate knowledge of some of the sexual problems that male circumcision can cause. I also know a couple of Jewish men who feel they were mutilated and that an important choice about themselves and their bodies was taken away from them.

    What’s wrong with letting men decide when they’re older whether they want to take up the Jewish covenant? If incising your child’s body is considered a vital part of being Jewish or Muslim, why can’t we openly question that as we question other outdated and inappropriate religious practices?

  7. Wow, I have never understood why people get so upset over circumcision. Here are the facts as far as I know.
    1) circumcision does NOT stop males from enjoying sex. The research I’ve read seems to show that the enjoyment is very close to equal between circumcised and uncircumcised men. I have never seen a single reliable research paper that says one is definitely superior to the other.
    2) circumcision provides some protection against STDs. (not a lot but some)
    3) Circumcision is a very safe procedure that very rarely has any complications.

    So basically 1 doesn’t matter and the benefit of 2 and risk of 3 seem to cancel each other out in my mind. Parents who circumcise their children do not appear to be reducing their children’s enjoyment of life or average lifespan so I don’t think it is any of my business.

  8. While freedom of belief is definitely something that needs to protected. We also need to be protected from thousand-year old ideas that stunt our ability to embrace what science, an unbiased and ever-evolving body of evidence has to offer us.

  9. I strongly disagree here.
    While circumcision certainly has its benefits in areas with poor hygienic conditions, there are no significant advantages of circumcision under our hygiene standards. But still, as any operation, it carries a certain risk of bleeding or infection which may have serious consequences, like in this case. So yes, bodily harm was obviously done here, and that is what the court ruled. I think it is quite prejudiced and offensive to just shout “holocaust” as if german courts were staffed by nazis and incapable of making decisions based on law and logic. Also, many men later report that they wish they had not been circumicsed as children, and it is perfectly acceptable to delay that decision until the boy can choose his religion independently (and risk factors like clotting dysfunctions have been ruled out)
    Ironically, there was a huge outcry when somebody proposed to introduce a legal alternative to the horrifying and obviously illegal practise of female circumcision (or female genital mutilation, to be correct) The alternative involved making a small incision in the female foreskin, so it was actually less harmful than male circumcision – but apparently our “tolerance” for other cultures ends in africa.
    I think while everyone should believe in whatever he wants to believe and attend any kind of religious ceremony he prefers, religious freedom ends – like any other freedom – when it infringes other rights. That includes a child’s right to an unharmed body as well as a homosexual persons right get a job he is qualified for, (which caritas for example refuses – without legal consequences!) just to name another example. If a German court rules against harming children, I agree. But then it should use the same measure on all religions.

  10. Parents do all kinds of things to their children that can be considered “violence.” Some parents put earrings in the earlobs of newborn daughters. Other parents spank children as a means of punishment. The list can go on.

    As Em & Lo point out, male circumscion is considered a covenant in judasim. Islam as well. Along with the holocaust, there is an anti-immigrant movement in Germany that targets adherents of Islam. It’s important that we look beyond the professed purposes of these decisions to see what the true motives may be.

  11. A parent’s religious freedom does not entitle them to do violence against their child, no matter what God tells them to do.

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