Doctors called upon to perform circumcisions for religious reasons have long been in a legal grey area – but when challenged, could plea that there was no clear ruling against it, the Financial Times Deutschland reported on Tuesday.
But now the Cologne district court has ruled that neither the rights of parents, nor the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion can justify what it defined as bodily harm.
A lawyer who has long campaigned for such a ruling said it was a question of basic rights of children being respected.
“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,” said Holm Putzke.
But Muslim and Jewish groups have been determined to prevent criminalisation of circumcision, viewing such a ruling as a serious attack on their freedom of religion.
Should the state keep its nose out of such questions? Is the criminalisation of ancient and widespread practices offensive to Jews and Muslims? What kind of signal does this give to people being urged to integrate into German society?
Or is the court simply fulfilling its duty to protect infants and young children from unnecessary surgical procedures that they have no way of making a choice about?
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