In June 2012 the court in Cologne, Germany banned elective (not medically necessary) circumcisions for children. The ban was in response to a 4-year old Muslim child’s post-circumcision complications, which were quite serious. When the ban was announced, many German, Swiss and Austrian hospitals stopped allowing circumcisions on infants and children. Several Scandinavian countries were considering a ban on elective circumcision, as well.
During the following months Jewish and Muslim organizations in Germany, and elsewhere, including the U.S., Israel and Turkey, expressed outrage at what they perceived as religious intolerance. The ban also posed a serious embarrassment—and message of intolerance—to German’s 4 million Muslims, most of whom were from Turkey or from Turkish descent.
Germany’s Chancellor Merkel, in a statement to a group of Jewish leaders, months after the ban, said she found 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.”
In December 2012, the lower house of Germany’s Parliament voted Cologne court’s decision. The measure passed by a majority vote. The bill had some caveats, however. One was that ritual circumcisers could only circumcise infants younger than 6 months. After that the circumcision has to be performed by a doctor. Another was that both parents must consent to the procedure.
Elective circumcision still requires the approval by Germany’s upper house of Parliament, the Bundesrat, an approval that is expected to be passed sometime in 2013. Whether the Scandinavian countries will uphold elective circumcision or submit to pressure from groups seeking to ban it remains to be seen. We promise, however, to keep you informed!