ONTD Political

German lawmakers on Wednesday passed legislation ensuring parents the right to have their boys circumcised, bringing a close to months of legal uncertainty set off by a regional court’s ruling that equated the practice with bodily harm.

The measure passed by a vote of 434 to 100, with 46 abstentions, in Germany’s lower house of Parliament, the Bundestag. The vote followed months of emotional debate, and angered and alienated many German Jews and Muslims, for whom circumcision is a religious rite, integral to their beliefs.

But opponents of the bill, including 66 lawmakers who had proposed a version of the legislation that would have banned the procedure for boys younger than 14, insisted that removing a healthy body part from a child too young to have a say in the matter violates basic human rights.

Before the vote, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, Germany’s justice minister, urged lawmakers to consider the far-reaching implications of their decision.

“There is no country in the world where the circumcision of boys for religious reasons is considered a criminal act,” Ms. Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said. “With this legislation, the German government makes clear that Jewish and Muslim life is clearly welcome in Germany.”



The Cologne court’s ruling provoked outrage in Israel, Turkey, the United States and elsewhere. It proved an embarrassment to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, painfully aware that postwar Germany can ill afford to be seen as supporting such a dangerous message of intolerance. Most of Germany’s four million Muslims are from Turkey or of Turkish descent.

“I find it particularly sad that in the necessary weighing of the various legal elements in the circumcision debate, every level of inhibition appears to have been lost to finally tell Jews and Muslims what is good for them,” Ms. Merkel said at a gathering of Jewish leaders in November, after months of fractious debate on the issue. The legislation must also be approved by the upper house of Parliament, the Bundesrat, which is expected to pass it.

Unlike common practice in the United States, infant boys in Germany and most other European countries are not routinely circumcised for health reasons. Consequently, the practice is unfamiliar to the general public, even to most lawmakers voting on Wednesday, as Aydan Ozoguz pointed out.

“It is a particular challenge that among this body, only very few members belong to the Jewish or Muslim faiths,” said Ms. Ozoguz, a lawmaker from the opposition Social Democratic Party, who was born in Germany to Turkish parents. She pointed out that a ban on the practice in the early years of a boy’s life would “create an opportunity for Jews and Muslims to be pursued by prosecutors and as a result, sweepingly criminalized.”

The Cologne court ruling legally applied only to the doctor who had removed the foreskin of a 4-year-old Muslim boy, who then suffered complications in November 2010. Nevertheless, it had a ripple effect, leading hospitals from Berlin to Zurich to suspend circumcisions and emboldening a movement against the procedure that had previously gone largely unnoticed.

Under the legislation, circumcisions that are not deemed necessary for medical reasons must nevertheless be carried out “in accordance with medical practice.” Specially qualified members of a religious community may perform a circumcision only during the first six months of a boy’s life; afterward, it must be carried out by a doctor.

The bill also stipulates that both parents consent to the procedure, but does not require them to give a reason, religious or otherwise, for seeking to have it done.

Doctors at Berlin’s Jewish Hospital welcomed the vote. The hospital was one of several in Germany that had suspended circumcisions after the Cologne court’s decision.

“For us, circumcision was a matter of course,” said Gerhard Nerlich, a hospital spokesman. “We have been performing circumcisions for decades. We welcome the right to continue to do so.”

the ny times.

since we had a post about this ruling when it first happened, i thought a follow-up was in order.
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