November 22, 2012
German parliament debates circumcision law
By Kay-Alexander Scholz
Germany's parliament has started debating a draft law on infant male circumcision. The government wants legal security for Muslim and Jewish traditions in Germany.
In May 2012, a Cologne court ruled that the circumcision of a young boy on religious grounds amounted to grievous bodily harm and therefore illegal.
The draft law foresees amending the German Civil Code by article 1631d, which is to be dedicated entirely to male infant circumcision. The operation would be legal if it is carried out according to "appropriate medical procedures" and does not endanger the child's health, for instance in the case of a hemophiliac. Persons other than doctors who are trained in the art of circumcision, such as Jewish mohels, will be allowed to practice the rite during the first six months of a child's life.
The Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, began its discussion on the legislation on Thursday (22.11.2012). An alternative draft law handed in by a group of opposition left-wing lawmakers was also on the agenda. They propose that parents should have to wait until their son is 14 so he can give informed consent for the procedure. After all, they argue, circumcision involves a grave operation in which the "foreskin is amputated."
This draft takes into account criticism by children's protection organizations and the Association of Pediatricians, which approved of the Cologne court's ruling. In this scenario, circumcision on the eighth day after birth, as is Jewish custom, would be impossible.
The Bundestag Legal Committee is scheduled to examine the medical risks circumcision entails at a hearing on November 26.