Berlin clears ban on ritual circumcision

Berlin clears ban on ritual circumcision

BERLIN - Reuters
Berlin clears ban on ritual circumcision

German Parliament vote on a law for the religious circumcision in this file photo. EPA photo

Berlin’s senate said doctors could legally circumcise infant boys for religious reasons in its region, given certain conditions, ending months of legal uncertainty after a court banned the practice this year.

The ruling in June by a district court in Cologne outraged Muslims and Jews and sparked an emotional debate in the country. Although the ban applied only to the Cologne region, doctors across the country refused to carry out operations because of what they saw as a risk of legal action. Berlin became the first of Germany’s states to protect the practice while the national government works on a new law to legalize the operation across the country and overrule the Cologne decision.

The Cologne court, ruling in the case of a Muslim boy who suffered bleeding after circumcision, said the practice inflicted bodily harm and should not be carried out on young boys, although it could be practiced on older males with consent.

Thomas Heilmann, Berlin’s senator for justice, said in a statement on Sept. 5 circumcision could not be prosecuted in Berlin if both parents had given their permission and been informed about the risks of the operation. The parents had to prove their affiliation to a religious group and a doctor had to perform the circumcision. “We explicitly welcome Jewish and Muslim life in Berlin. This applies also to the practice of their religions,” Heilmann said.

The speed with which national lawmakers agreed in July to pass a new law underscored sensitivity to charges of intolerance in a country haunted by its Nazi past. Merkel said Germany risked becoming a “laughing stock” if Jews were not allowed to practice their rituals.