German doctors seek action on circumcision

German doctors seek action on circumcision

BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
German doctors seek action on circumcision

A boy’s toes curl in pain as a doctor performs a circumcision on him in Jakarta, Indonesia. A German court says the removal of the foreskin for religious reasons was illegal. AP photo

German doctors are seeking an urgent clarification from the government over religious circumcision after a court ruling calling it a criminal act prompted an international outcry.

The German government had on July 13 pledged quick action to protect the right of Muslims and Jews to circumcise baby boys on religious grounds, and voiced concern about the June ruling by the court in the city of Cologne.

The court said the removal of the foreskin for religious reasons amounted to assault and battery and was therefore illegal. “We want Jewish, we want Muslim religious life in Germany,” said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

Legal uncertainty
“Circumcision carried out responsibly must be possible in this country without legal punishment,” he told reporters in Berlin. German Medical Association president Frank Ulrich Montgomery told the Tagesspiegel newspaper on July 15 that the decision “created considerable legal uncertainty.”

“From the beginning we warned that his culturally sensitive ruling was erroneous,” he said. The College of Physicians called on the government to act to prevent clandestine circumcisions and to ensure that “children do not fall into the hands of any butcher or any old health worker.”

The Cologne ruling concerned a case brought against a doctor who had circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy in line with his parents’ wishes. When the boy later suffered heavy bleeding, prosecutors charged the doctor.

Although the doctor was acquitted, the court judged that “the right of a child to keep his physical integrity trumps the rights of parents” to observe their religion, potentially setting a legal precedent.