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Court: circumcision too risky for six-year-old

Published: 26 Sep 2013 08:40 GMT+02:00

Then a court in Cologne said religious circumcision of male infants was tantamount to grievous bodily harm, a criminal act subject to prosecution - prompting furore around the world. In response to the July 2012 ruling, German lawmakers passed a law clearly stating that under strict conditions, circumcision was legal.

But now a court in Hamm in North Rhine-Westphalia has said a woman could not get doctors to perform the religious rite on her six-year-old child because she had not taken into account the psychological damage it could cause him, newspaper the Westdeutsche Allgemeine newspaper reported.

The unnamed woman from Dortmund, who is German-born but of Kenyan descent, wanted to have her son circumcised before visiting Kenya, where it is normal practice for boys when they are very young babies.

More than 80 percent of the Kenyan adult male population is circumcised. The woman had worried her son would not be accepted as a real man by his relatives there unless he had the operation.

The court said the 31-year-old mother was not fit to make the decision about the operation because neither child nor mother were aware of the risks involved in the procedure - including psychological harm, the newspaper reported.

"In this case there are substantial grounds to suggest that the circumcision sought by the child's mother would damage the psychological well-being of the six-year-old," wrote the higher regional court in Hamm in a ruling from the end of August that was published on Wednesday.

Potential harm could result from the mother's intention not to be present at the operation, said the court and the fact that the child had already been christened.

Such "damage" was not necessary and should not be allowed, particularly as both mother and child lived in Germany and only travelled to Kenya very rarely, the court said.

The decision upholds an earlier ruling by the family court in Dortmund suggesting the local youth welfare office should have the final say on the matter.

Last December, German lawmakers passed a law stating circumcision was legal as long as the child's health was not put at risk, and that the practitioner carried out the rite in accordance with medical standards.

The Local/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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