Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Proposal Sets Circumcision Regulations in Germany

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Proposal Sets Circumcision Regulations in Germany

Article excerpt

The proposal comes in response to calls by lawmakers for legal clarity in the wake of a regional court ruling that equated the practice of ritual circumcision with bodily injury to minors.

Germany's Justice Ministry took a firm step on Wednesday toward safeguarding the right of parents to circumcise their male children, distributing its proposal to state officials and other experts to be debated before it is drafted into law.

The proposal comes in response to calls by lawmakers for the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel to establish legal clarity in the wake of a regional court ruling that equated ritual circumcision -- a centuries-old practice by Jews and Muslims -- with bodily injury to minors.

That ruling sparked a fractious debate that angered and alienated the more than 100,000 Jews and more than four million Muslims living in Germany. The decision by the Cologne regional court in June also provided the catalyst for similar debates over the practice in neighboring Austria, Switzerland and as far away as Norway.

In response to the legal gray zone created by the ruling, doctors refused to perform circumcisions, lest they face legal charges. The Jewish Hospital in Berlin stopped the practice for several months, until securing assurances last month from local authorities that their surgeons could not be at risk of prosecution for simply carrying out the practice.

The main Jewish organization in Germany welcomed the ministry's proposal as a clear signal from the Merkel government that their rights to practice their religion would be protected. For Jews the circumcision of boys on the eighth day after their birth is viewed as a command from God, necessary for a young man to enter Jewish society.

"We view this as a step in the right direction," Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews told the German news agency, DPA, on Tuesday. …

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