The debate over routine male circumcision intensified last week as a ground breaking case unfolded in a regional court in Cologne, Germany, that declared it illegal for parents to perform religious-based circumcision on their son.
The ruling came from a November 2010 incident in which Muslim parents requested the circumcision of their four-year-old boy. Days after the procedure, he was admitted to an hospital emergency room due to hemorrhaging.
Prosecutors were notified and the doctor was charged with grievous bodily harm but later was acquitted by the court since the circumcision was performed properly. However, that left the issue of whether or not non-medical circumcision should be legal.
In the end, the court decided that a child's right to be protected outweighed parental consent and religious freedom. The decision to circumcise or not would be left for the child to decide later in life.
The climate in Germany is different from in America, where more half the males are circumcised. The procedure in Germany takes place primarily within the Muslim and Jewish communities.
According to an article in The Jerusalem Post, the ruling triggered an angry reaction from the Central Council of Jews. The head of the Central Council, Dr. Dieter Graumann, felt the court issued an “unprecedented and dramatic interference in the right of religious communities to self-determination.” He added that the decision is an “inappropriate and insensitive act." The Muslim and Jewish communities in Germany are reviewing the ruling and have not yet made any formal comment.
The ruling sent shock waves of celebration by human rights activists as they considered this to be an important step toward ending routine male circumcision through out the world. Local Athens mom Jessica Loyd is against circumcision and considered the ruling to be a victory.
"I feel that people should decide what happens to their own bodies," Loyd said "No health organization in the world recommends routine circumcision. I'd like to be PC and say I think it's the parent's choice, but the more I learn, I just can't do that. It's the choice of the child when he is older and able to make that choice."
Not everyone is in support of the ruling. Athens mom Janet Jarrett feels that making circumcision a human rights issue is taking the argument to an unacceptable place.
"To label millions of loving parents (myself included) who opted to circumcise our boys as human right violators is going a bit too far," Jarrett argued "I'm not saying that there aren't cases when the government isn't justified in stepping in to protect the rights of individuals. Clearly, there are. I would even argue that female circumcision is just cause, but snipping a little skin for hygienic reasons is not."
Whether you support the ruling or not, the decision made in the German court will likely influence how the law is interpreted in the future and may make doctors less willing to perform circumcisions.
What do you think? Which is more important, a child’s right to bodily integrity or the rights of the child’s parents? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.