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Religious circumcisions are crimes says court
Photo: DPA

Religious circumcisions are crimes says court

Published: 26 Jun 2012 11:03 GMT+02:00
Updated: 26 Jun 2012 11:03 GMT+02:00

Religious circumcisions are bodily harm and thus a crime, a German court ruled this week, in what was dubbed a precedent-setting decision.

Non-medical circumcision is a "serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body,” the Cologne district court ruled.

This criminalises religious circumcisions performed by Jews and Muslims, the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper said on Tuesday. It says circumcision should be considered a crime of bodily harm.

Thousands of very young boys are circumcised in Germany each year, mainly for religious reasons.

In the United States most boys are circumcised shortly after birth - regardless of their religion, though the practice has declined in recent years and anti-circumcision protest groups have sprung up.

German doctors performing circumcisions that are not medically necessary have until now operated in a grey legal area. Until now they could claim that they were unaware that performing a circumcision is a crime.

Even if a physician was later found guilty by a court, there was a legal loophole and he could claim that the law was improper and avoid punishment. That is no longer the case, the Financial Times Deutschland said.

"The ruling is enormously important above all for doctors because it's the first time that they have a legal certainty," Holm Putzke of the University of Passau told the paper. He has been calling for prohibition for years.

“The court has, in contrast to many politicians, not allowed itself to be scared by the fear of being criticised as anti-Semitic or opposed to religion,” Putzke said.

"This decision could not only affect future legal rulings but in the best case it could lead to a change of consciousness among the affected religions when it comes to respecting the basic rights of children."

Jewish and Muslim groups have fought for years against a criminalisation of circumcision. They did not have any immediate comment on Monday's ruling, saying they needed to review it first, the paper said.

The court ruling is likely to be highly controversial – experts expect the matter will end up being decided by the Federal Constitutional Court.

The Cologne decision came after a Muslim doctor performed a circumcision on a four-year-old boy. Two days later the mother brought the child to the emergency room because he was bleeding.

The prosecutor's office learned of the situation and filed charges against the doctor. The doctor was found not guilty in the first instance, but the prosecutor appealed.

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Your comments about this article

11:50 June 26, 2012 by Omufu
Wait... so, to prevent the removal of a little penis-skin the courts will step in, but magically it's okay to, ah, what's the right word? Kill? Yes, that's it. It's okay to kill the developing person/baby if they're young enough? Odd. Just a little.
12:02 June 26, 2012 by pigsnuck
I think this decision is long overdue. The babies being circumcised have a right to decide for themselves when they are capable of making an informed decision. No parent has the right to chop part of their baby off - for any reason.

For many years, we have rejected female circumcision as barbaric. Although male circumcision is less horrifying, it is still appalling, and any legal protection we can extend to the vulnerable is a good thing, in my opinion.
13:00 June 26, 2012 by freechoice
and slaughtering millions of babies every year through abortion is not?
13:03 June 26, 2012 by yourkeau
Good decision, hope it will be strictly enforced.
13:26 June 26, 2012 by scrambledhelix
They've just made Judaism illegal.
13:32 June 26, 2012 by wood artist
A very interesting decision, that's sure to raise some serious discussions. That's fine, but there are many valid points of view.

It is obvious that some will question this from the standpoint that the state is interfering with the free practice of specific religious beliefs. Of course, that's not a "pure" situation because the state already limits certain religious practices...i.e. polygamy.

There is also a legitimate question about who speaks as the decider for medical treatments for children. Traditionally we have (generally) allowed a parent to make those decisions, so this presents a new challenge.

On the other side, it is equally true that the child (infant) is being forced into a religious decision that he is not old enough to understand.

It is also generally accepted that this operation is not a "medical necessity" so that raises other issues. We allow people to opt into "elective surgery" such as breast enhancement, but we don't generally allow children to do that, even if their parents agree.

Like so many things in life, this is not a clear choice, and either way the law struggles with defining and absolute. However, that said, I applaud Germany for having the discussion. To me, this is a medical ethics question, and although religion plays a role, it is not an inappropriate discussion to have.

wa
14:33 June 26, 2012 by ml66uk
It's illegal to cut off a girl's prepuce, or to make any incision on a girl's genitals, even if no tissue is removed, and even if the parents think it's their religious right or obligation. Even a pinprick is banned.

Why don't boys get the same protection? Everyone should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want parts of their genitals cut off. It's *their* body and they have rights too.
14:48 June 26, 2012 by IchBinKönig
Circumcision cuts down on the spread of disease.

If everyone was circumcised, there would be a lower HIV+ rate.
14:49 June 26, 2012 by SchwabHallRocks
Call it odd...

The photo at the right, of the 1,699 naked people lined up for the artistic photo, combined with this subject on cirumcision for which Jewish are well known, makes me think of the couple million jews sent to the gas chambers (with the other couple million being shot).
15:01 June 26, 2012 by ml66uk
@IchBinKönig :

There is stronger evidence that female circumcision is linked to lower HIV rates than male circumcision.

(I tried posting this with supporting links, but it looks like I can't include the links)

From a USAID report:

"There appears no clear pattern of association between male circumcision and HIV prevalence—in 8 of 18 countries with data, HIV prevalence is lower among circumcised men, while in the remaining 10 countries it is higher."

The South African National Communication Survey on HIV/AIDS, 2009 found that 15% of adults across age groups "believe that circumcised men do not need to use condoms".

From the committee of the South African Medical Association Human Rights, Law & Ethics Committee :

"the Committee expressed serious concern that not enough scientifically-based evidence was available to confirm that circumcisions prevented HIV contraction and that the public at large was influenced by incorrect and misrepresented information. The Committee reiterated its view that it did not support circumcision to prevent HIV transmission."

The one randomized controlled trial into male-to-female transmission showed a 54% higher rate in the group where the men had been circumcised btw:

ABC (Abstinence, Being faithful, and especially Condoms) is the way forward. Promoting genital surgery seems likely to cost African lives rather than save them.
15:24 June 26, 2012 by geraldo
Like female circumcision, male circumcision is barbaric and mutilating and should only be done when the child reaches adulkthood so as to understand that it deprives the penis of sexual pleasure when the child reaches pubescence onwards, it is dangerous (herpes (in one case fatally) has been transmitted to infants from rabbis doing it, death has occurred rarely from exsanguination. As a 68 year old surgeon myself, I have always regretted that my parents forced this procedure on me when I was too young to understand the sometime fatal barbarity and permanent sequelae. The Bible does NOT mention circumcision. It was interpreted by the satanic Talmudists as a Covenant with Abraham, but then the Talmud allows sex with a three year old girl and a boy under the age of nine also.
15:33 June 26, 2012 by JackieNO
Finally a country is standing up for the basic human right of a human to keep all of his sensory system, all of his nerves, all of his blood vessels, protective covering and pleasure zones.

Other countries should follow this lead. Baby boy penis parts removal should be considered illegal NOW in the United States under the 1996 federal law banning genital cutting -- 14th Amendment equal protection clause.

Those saying that preventing the cutting off of penis parts of a baby boy violates the cutter's freedom of religion, are way out there in irrational land. One's religion ends where their knife touches another human's body. The idea that another human's ritual (rite) trumps ones right to body parts is insane and creepy. Baby boy penis parts removal cuts off thousands of fine touch and stretch nerves. This is like disconnecting the fingertips, nipples or lips from the brain. No human should be subjected to sensory system harm as well as a forced decrease of sexual function and PLEASURE for life!
15:36 June 26, 2012 by SchwabHallRocks
You know, you guys are missing the point...

When I can pee with both hands in my pockets in the freezing cold, I am grateful I was circumcised.

When I can go several days without proper bathing, and don't have smegma everywhere, I am grateful I was circumcised.

Perhaps most importantly, women prefer it.
15:58 June 26, 2012 by Al uk
The above post is surely taking the p-ss. No one can be that stupid.
17:55 June 26, 2012 by VictoriaCircumcisionResources
SchwabHallRocks appears to be scrambling for positives to his sad situation.

Male circumcision always causes retrograde neuropathy. It always causes complete keritanization of the glans. It always causes the loss of 240 feet of nerves and somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000 specialized nerve endings not found elsewhere on the penis. It causes a permanent change in the mechanics of sexual intercourse & masturbation for that matter, and circumcised men experience much higher rates of erectile dysfunction, and other problems.

The sad truth is that a scarred, dried out, keritanized penis that literally scoops a woman's natural lubrication out of her vagina because of the exposed coronal hook rather than keeping it in where it's needed and does not have the gliding mechanism anymore is in no way, shape, or form more pleasing to women who are familiar with intact men.
18:22 June 26, 2012 by SchwabHallRocks
First, the son should mirror the father for mental development. If the father is / is not, the son should / should not be circumcised.

Second, if Europe has the answer to this, for all the various medical and sexual reasons discussed above, then why is Europe¦#39;s (notably Germany, Russia, and the Mediterranean countries) birth rates below replacement levels?

Interesting that we are discussing this on a German bulletin board, given Germans are slowly, but certainly, becoming extinct.

And, I prefer not having to play with a foreskin to pee. And women prefer it.
20:58 June 26, 2012 by The-ex-pat
Seems rather odd that any God would require one to have mutilated genitals to be considered a religious and worthy person......................
21:35 June 26, 2012 by lejardin
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
22:24 June 26, 2012 by prochoice
The arguments for and against circumcision for aesthetic or purported health benefits are beside the point. What is the point is that a special part of my body was stolen from me as an infant and from many other infant boys past, present, and as things stand, in the future too for no valid medical reason, and without any consideration of my personal opinion or that of all the other infant boys that those foreskins were and will be attached to. It may have been/will be sanctioned by my parents and those of many other infants for cultural or religious reasons or whatever, but it is/was not their body and they should not be legally allowed to give permission for the theft of part of another's body for non therapeutic reasons.

If it was any other part of the body of the child that was proposed to be cut off serious questions would be asked, and yet the foreskin is mysteriously regarded as dispensable for some reason by many, despite the fact that it is much appreciated by the majority of men in the UK and the rest of the world who were allowed to retain it and are not queuing up in their droves to have it removed.

Infant boys should be afforded the same legal protection as infant girls against the whims or rites of those parents who would choose to impose irreversible physical modification of the genitalia of their infant sons, who lack the capacity to speak out against it for themselves. I salute the decision of this court for taking another step along the road toward a fairer society.
05:17 June 27, 2012 by Lindy226
Germany's self-appointed do-gooders are trying to achieve what the Nazis did-- a Germany without Jews. Cloaked in their infinite self-righteousness, the anti-circumcision fanatics are without shame, without a sense of proportion, without a sense of the history of the very country in which they live. Disgraceful..

Jews world wide need to stand up and speak out against this and don't stop until it is overturned.
08:53 June 27, 2012 by delvek
I am happy I am circumcised. Compared to friends who arent its much better. I also am happy that my parents had it done when I was a baby then as a young adult when I realized its better circumcised then not and have to go through major pain to get it done. I know many people who would get circumcised it it wasnt for the pain. I dont know anyone that wished they had a foreskin.

Probably some liberal freak woman who thinks she knows best. One day people will just have enough and reset all this crap through world war. Til then keep rocking!
11:26 June 27, 2012 by GiulianaT
I find the post above is representative of the circumcised males I have met in my life (Jewish or none), and that prochoice's argument, "the majority of men in the UK and the rest of the world who were allowed to retain it and are not queuing up in their droves to have it removed" is representative of those who have not been circumcised. It appears to me that people are just generally thrilled with what they got, and would not want it any other way. The circumcised men I have been with have not had ANY problem experiencing pleasure, and as a woman, I happen to prefer them circumcised. But I also know women who prefer them uncircumcised. When you look at the actual stats for the benefits/dangers of circumcision, what you see is pretty minute numerically speaking. So in my opinion there are much bigger fish to fry than circumcision. I understand more worrying about the procedure being performed by a skilled surgeon under the most hygenic conditions. By making it illegal, you'll just get clandestine circumcisions that will really get messed up.
12:35 June 27, 2012 by kozzak
This something that no govenment has any business being involved in at any time. It is an issue for the parents to decide.
14:09 June 27, 2012 by ml66uk
@kozzak:

It's an issue for the children to decide. It's *their* body. Everyone should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want parts of their genitals cut off.

We don't let parents cut healthy normal living tissue off any other part of a boy, or off any part at all of a girl. Why don't boys get the same protection?
18:12 June 27, 2012 by Deist
The ancient practice of mutilating the human body for religious "reasons" violates our God-given reason. Not only does circumcision mutilate an innocent boy's body, in the USA Jewish children have died because of the Orthodox Jewish practice known as metzitzah b'peh. This ancient practice involves the rabbi/mohel using his mouth to directly suck on the bloody penis of the freshly circumcised infant in an effort to remove the blood. So far, and as far as is known, two infants have died from this unnatural and repulsive practice.

I think it's time people all over the world brought about a revolution in religion based on our God-given reason and Deism. This is what Thomas Paine called for in his thought provoking book on God, Deism and religion, The Age of Reason, The Complete Edition.

Progress! Bob Johnson

www.deism.com
01:04 June 28, 2012 by MrPC
I hope that photo is published in every newspaper around the world. That poor kids face says it all. Just because something is traditional or religious doesn't mean it isn't abusive, just ask women.
02:07 June 28, 2012 by ebbelwoiguy
I hope this decision stands and is expanded to outlaw ALL elective surgery on minors.

Children aren't faulty furniture to be modified, whatever flimsy excuses and junk science come up with. This decision protects children who may be born to Jews or Muslims. The nazis weren't exactly in the business of protecting rights, so that particular smear does not stick.

However ancient these religions are, this forbidden body part predate them by far, and deserves to be kept.
05:31 June 29, 2012 by Kristy Alger
It is not the question of whether circumcision is better or not that should be addressed. It is the question of whether a parent or guardian has the right to determine the rightness of the procedure for a non-consenting minor. It is whether doctors and medical corporations have a right to push circumcision as a pre-emptive "cure" for conditions that may not even affect the child in question. It is whether a child should be able to be used as a billboard for a parents or a doctors aesthetic or religious beliefs. Congratulations to Germany for deciding in the favour of child genital integrity and bodily autonomy. It is currently under debate here in my state of Tasmania, Australia, and we are awaiting a positive decision!
03:44 June 30, 2012 by geraldo
I wish to bring everyone's attention to the fact that the overwhelming majority of men who undergo circumcisions as ADULTS complain that the sexual sensitivity of their penis AFTER the circumcision is much LESS than BEFORE the circumcision. This PROVES that the procedure is mutilating. Only they would be able to compare the before and after sensitivities. A commenter has correctly stated that the exposed skin of a circumcised penis becomes KERATINISED which means the skin has been subject to repeated friction and histologically is thicker with even less room for whatever remaining sensory nerves are there after the circumcision, which tallies with the assertion of the adult men circumcised as adults noted above.
19:54 June 30, 2012 by Karl Tn
I am jewish and consider circumcision a repulsive act. Already 3% of the jews do not circumcise their sons (I belong to this ever-growing minority within the jewish community). I am not really fond of Germany or germans, but I do approve this rule and see no connection with Nazism at all.
23:59 July 2, 2012 by DavidTVC15
In response to Omufu (the author of the first comment), and in response those who agree with him, I'd like to say the following:

No medical organization in the world recommends routine circumcision.

There is no medical or health-related benefit of circumcision. It was once thought the foreskin encourages the growth of bacteria, etc. This might have been true several hundred years ago when most people didn't shower very often, but it's not true now. In fact, the Harvard School of Public Health says that the difference now is so miniscule that it shouldn't even be considered.

What Geraldo said about keratanization is completely true. The foreskin has a important function. It has the same function as your eyelids. In both cases, they protect and lubricate a very sensitive and very delicate mucus membrane. When the foreskin is removed, the glans turns from a mucus membrane into regular skin, and it does this order to protect itself from irritation. And this skin isn't as sensitive. So, every male who is circumcised has less sensation during sex. In most cases the difference is relatively minor so it doesn't really matter. But in rare cases it causes a condition called Delayed Ejaculation. This is the third most common sexual problem among men in the U.S. (that was hard for me to believe when I first read it, because a lot of people have never heard of it).

There's a ton of information out there about D.E. and about it's relationship to circumcision. If you're interested you can go to www.nocirc.org. Or go to Google and type in something like "How do I make my penis more sensive", or "why can't I feel anything during sex". You'll see that lots of guys are asking these same questions on various health-related forums.

Those are some of my thoughts, anyway.
00:12 July 19, 2012 by zydur
To all defenders of circumcision as a cult-ritual or for any other reason, you don't know what you are missing once it is gone, it will not grow back. If in the course of human evolution in the distant future the foreskin falls off, so be it.

For now, I applaud the the court decision.
17:05 August 1, 2012 by sondecicada
Not too long ago at all... the medical establishment worked on the theory (unproven) that newborns did not experience pain. Fortunately, this has since been proven to be inaccurate and we now know that they feel pain just as other humans, mammals, insects, etc. Anyone that has strapped a newborn infant into the hard plastic restraint utilized for hospital circumcisions... and then watched and listened to the infant scream during the procedure... would think twice before advocating circumcision. As a mother of 3 sons who became a nurse following the birth of my second son, I was literally horrified to discover that a circumcision required the torture of a newborn infant. It was too late to spare my first two son's, who in ignorance I subjected to this torture. However, my third born son was spared this torture and has thus far not experienced absolutely any clinical or hygiene issues related to having his foreskin.
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