Germany’s justice ministry on Tuesday released key details of its draft bill enshrining religious circumcision in German law. The proposal is the government’s response to last May’s ruling by a Cologne court banning religious circumcision of newborn boys and children.
The court ruled that circumcision violated bodily integrity and freedom of religion and the rights of the parents of the circumcised boy cannot justify the practice. Even though the Cologne court’s decision does not apply outside it’s own district, it prompted a national debate and sparked outrage among Jews and Muslims. Some Jewish leaders even questioned whether Germany could ever really be home to Jews.
Deutsche Welle writes that Justice Minister Sabine Leuthesser-Scharrenberger wants religious circumcision to be legal; the draft bill adds a new paragraph to child protection laws making it clear that parents are allowed to approve the circumcision of their son if the operation is carried out according to medical standards. The proposal allows doctors and properly trained religious practitioners to perform the procedure on boys up to the age of six months. Effective pain relief, including anesthesia, must be provided.
The draft has been cautiously welcomed by the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Council President, Dr Dieter Graumann said “It’s a step in the right direction. The document is a good basis for discussion but many details still need to clarified.”
The Central Council of Muslims in Germany has also welcomed the draft but questioned why the age limit had been set at six months. Jews circumcise at eight days but Muslims usually do it much later.
The justice ministry has called on interested parties to submit questions before before 1 October, in the run-up to a parliamentary debate. It’s likely to be a stormy one as three parties - SPD, Grüne and Linke - have already announced their opposition to the bill.