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Jul 01 2012

German court rules against circumcision

I find it surprising that male circumcision is still considered to be an acceptable practice although female circumcision is not. I am well aware that the latter is far more serious than the former but both irreversibly violate the bodily integrity of a child and should not be allowed. Those who believe that the practice provides some benefit can choose to do it for themselves when they become adults.

Hence I was encouraged to learn from Pharyngula that a German court agrees that this causes ‘bodily harm’ and has outlawed the practice in a case involving a Muslim boy who became seriously ill as a result of it. Naturally this has outraged Jews and Muslims who routinely practice circumcision. I totally agree with the judges who concluded that “circumcision contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on in life about his religious beliefs” and that “the fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighs the fundamental rights of the parents”.

I have stated my arguments against circumcision, which is based on the extremely dangerous idea that parents can force their religious practices on their defenseless children, at some length in a post a couple of years ago, but Jesus’s response to Moses and Mo sums it up pretty well, with a couple of great double entendres thrown in.

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  1. 1
    FredBloggs

    Ritual mutilation is a disgraceful practice. Claims that “it’s our way” are nonsensical – in what way has the child chosen it to be “their way”?

    It should be banned a.s.a.p.

  2. 2
    Marcus Ranum

    I believe it’s a pretty serious crime for a tattooist to work on someone under the age of 18 unless they are over 14 and have permission from a parent. Seems reasonable. Permanent elective body-modifications should only be performed in a situation where the subject can give consent. The laws should not be written governing circumcision of one particular gender; they should cover any non-consensual body modifications including peircing, circumcision, and tattooing. Parents: do goofy stuff with “your” kids’ hair and clothes while you can…

    The idea that a parent can enroll “their” child in a “covenant” with a god is rather ridiculous, anyway. What god would want a new worshipper that didn’t even understand what they had just been signed up for? This is especially important for religions that punish apostates.

  3. 3
    EwgB

    I do think that many people in the US misunderstand the German law and court systems, and try to interpret the rulings in the context of the Anglo-American system (common law). Germany, and most countries in Europe (apart from the UK mostly) operate under the civil law system. Under it, the primary source of law are bills passed by the legislative branch of the government. Court decisions (apart from the countries supreme court) are not considered law or (binding) precedent. A judge’s decision is binding to the parties of the particular lawsuit only. This decision can be brought up in a similar case, but other judges are not obligated to make a similar ruling, and can, and often do come to completely opposite conclusions. Thus it is wrong to call this particular ruling a law, as it pertains only to the parents of the child in question and the surgeon who performed the circumcision.

    This of course also means that the religious communities are make much more fuss than there is reason to.

  4. 4
    Mano Singham

    Thanks a lot for this clarification. Even if this ruling applies only to this one instance, I am hoping that the publicity given to the reasoning will cause people to reconsider the issue.

  5. 5
    left0ver1under

    It was not long ago (i.e. in my childhood) that parents and schools tried to force right handedness onto children. In some places, the left hand was deemed “evil”, and “corporal punishment” (read: physical abuse) was used to “encourage” naturally left handed children to use the right hand. We’re not just talking christians here, muslims and Japan took that view, among others.

    Now imagine if one of those cultures considered it “acceptable” to cut off the left hand of a child who refused to use the right hand, to make that child “normal” and to “fit in”. We’d call that barbaric.

    Cutting off a foreskin may not be as extreme as cutting off a hand, but both are equally ridiculous ideas based on social customs and not on genetics and evolution.

  6. 6
    Jeff Hess

    Good morning Mano,

    Andrew Sullivan has long been an advocate of ending the practice of mutilating infants and I knew he would weigh in on the Cologne case.

    Do all you can to make today a good day,

    Jeff

  7. 7
    Cees van der Duin

    Activists File Complaint Against § 1631d BGB

    December 2013 — German intactivist movement tries to tackle circumcision law. Since december 2012 a circumcision law (§ 1631d BGB) principally allows parents to circumcize their son as desired. Now activists against HGM or any ritual mutilation (i. e. FGM and MGM) have written a petition to the German Supreme Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) and demand that the § 1631d BGB is declared as not being in accordance with the German constitution. Instead they call for an end of all circumcisions done without medical necessity.

    27. Dezember 2013
    an das
    Bundesverfassungsgericht
    Karlsruhe

    Beschwerde gegen das Bundesgesetz über den Umfang der Personensorge bei einer Beschneidung des männlichen Kindes

    Die Beschwerdeführer legen daher gegen dieses Gesetz Beschwerde ein und beantragen durch eine einstweilige Anordnung nach § 32 Abs. 1 BVerfGG diese Vorschrift sofort außer Kraft zu setzen, um alle medizinisch nicht erforderlichen Beschneidungen, insbesondere Rituale wie Metzitzah B’Peh, pria und Praktiken wie im folgenden Link beschrieben, die sicherlich mit einer Zirkumzision lege artis nicht zu vereinbaren sind, trotzdem aber durchgeführt werden, zu verbieten bis das hohe Gericht über die Verfassungsbeschwerde entschieden hat.

    Die Beschwerdeführer beantragen zudem, die nicht medizinisch indizierte MGM an nicht einwilligungs- und urteilsfähigen Jungen auf die Liste der Auslandsstraftaten zu setzen, um sowohl Beschneidungstourismus zu verhindern als auch die gegebenenfalls erforderliche Strafverfolgung ortsunabhängig zu gewährleisten.

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