April 14, 2014
European committee of ministers backs circumcisionDecision elicits praise for repudiating PACE resolution equating the Jewish practice to mutilation.
by Sam Sokol
The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on March 19 repudiated an anti-circumcision resolution adopted last October by the body’s Parliamentary Committee (PACE), eliciting praise from European Jews on Thursday night, when they were informed of the decision.
The PACE resolution termed circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children” and suggested that member states ban the practice until children are “old enough to be consulted.” [Why the scare quotes? How is infant genital cutting not a violation of physical integrity, and what is scorn-worthy about waiting for informed consent?] PACE further urged member states to “initiate a public debate, including intercultural and interreligious dialogue, aimed at reaching a large consensus on the rights of children to protection against violations of their physical integrity according to human rights standards.”
The resolution angered European Muslim and Jewish communities, as well as Israel and Turkey, all of which complained of religious coercion and intolerance.
Language in the PACE document that seemed to compare circumcision to female genital mutilation particularly angered Jewish groups, with the president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece calling it “a sign of anti-Semitism.”
The Committee of Ministers response panned the comparison between female genital mutilation and circumcision, calling the practices “by no means comparable.”
Female genital mutilation, the committee stated, “can in no way be put on an equal footing with practices such as the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons.”
The committee further stated that “for the present, further standard-setting work is not required” on issues relating to circumcision.
“Protection for children against the risks of non-medically justified operations and interventions is provided by existing international instruments, which address, inter alia, the participation of children in decisions concerning their welfare, and the role of their parents,” it explained. [And how much participation does a week-old child get in the "decision"?]