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Thursday, June 28th, 2012
In a move that one rabbi called “fatal to the freedom of religion,” a German court has ruled that boys cannot be circumcised because the practice inflicts bodily harm on children who are not able to give their own consent for the procedure. The Guardian newspaper has more:
A judge at a Cologne court said that the circumcision of minors went against a child’s interests because it led to a physical alteration of the body, and because people other than the child were determining its religious affiliation.
Religious leaders said the court had stepped into a minefield with its decision, which undermined their religious authority and contravened Germany’s constitution.
Ali Demir, chairman of the Religious Community of Islam in Germany, said: “I find the ruling adversarial to the cause of integration and discriminatory against all the parties concerned.”
Dieter Graumann, president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, called it “an egregious and insensitive measure” which amounted to “an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in religious communities’ right of determination.”
The ruling followed a lengthy legal battle, sparked when a Muslim couple decided to have their son circumcised, specifically for religious reasons, by a Muslim doctor in Cologne. The doctor, identified only as Dr K, carried out the circumcision on the four-year old boy in November 2010, before giving the wound four stitches. The same evening, he visited the family at home to check up on the boy. When the boy began bleeding again two days later, his parents took him to the casualty department of Cologne’s University hospital. The hospital contacted the police, who then launched an investigation. The doctor was charged with bodily harm, and the case was taken to court.
While the court acquitted Dr. K on the grounds that he had not broken any law, it concluded that circumcision of minors for religious reasons should be outlawed, and that neither parental consent nor religious freedom justified the procedure. It ruled that in future doctors who carried out circumcisions should be punished.
The court weighed up three articles from the basic law: the rights of parents, the freedom of religious practice and the right of the child to physical integrity, before coming to the conclusion that the procedure was not in the interests of the child.
It rejected the defence that circumcision is considered hygienic in many cultures, one of the main reasons it is carried out in the US, Britain and in Germany.
After much deliberation, it concluded that a circumcision, “even when done properly by a doctor with the permission of the parents, should be considered as bodily harm if it is carried out on a boy unable to give his own consent.”
Image: The German flag, via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, September 8th, 2011
If you’re following the circumcision debate in California, here’s the latest: The California legislature this week approved a bill that prevents local communities from banning circumcision, The Associated Press reports.
The bill was a response to events this summer in San Francisco, where an anti-circumcision group collected more than 7,500 signatures to place a measure banning circumcision on the November ballot. When a coalition of Jewish and Muslim groups sued, a judge blocked the ballot measure.
The bill now heads to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature.
From the AP:
The author of [the bill], Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Los Angeles, says [circumcision] has cultural and health benefits and should require statewide rules.
Challengers say it is an unnecessary surgery that may lead to sexual and health problems later in life. Advocates say circumcision is an important religious practice for many Jews and Muslims and can reduce the risk of cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.
(image via: http://twofrenchiesinsf.over-blog.com)
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Monday, September 5th, 2011
Fewer parents are choosing to have their newborn sons circumcised at the hospital, according to a new analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC looked at three different surveys that tracked rates of hospital circumcisions, and found the circumcision rate dropped slightly in all three. From Reuters Health:
In one survey, newborn male circumcision rates fell to 56.9 percent in 2008 from 62.9 percent in 1999. In another, rates of circumcision fell to 54.7 percent in 2010 from 58.4 percent in 2001. In a third, rates fell to 56.3 percent in 2008 from 63.5 percent in 1999.
The CDC said these statistics don’t include all circumcisions, since some boys are circumcised in their communities, in religious rituals that take place after they leave the hospital, Reuters reports:
Circumcision is a ritual obligation for infant Jewish boys, and is also a common rite among Muslims, who account for the largest share of circumcised men worldwide.
The wider U.S. population adopted the practice due to potential health benefits, but those advantages have become the subject of debate, including a recent effort to ban circumcision in San Francisco.
This summer, an anti-circumcision group in San Francisco collected more than 7,500 signatures to place a measure banning the practice on the November ballot. A judge blocked the ballot measure, and the California state legislature is currently working to prevent such bans at the local level.
Before these recent decreases, the rate of hospital circumcisions had been rising. “Circumcision rates rose to 61.1 percent from 1997 to 2000 from 48.3 percent in 1988,” Reuters reports. The researchers suggest that cost may be one reason for the current drop. From Reuters:
Medicaid coverage may be one factor. A recent study found circumcision rates were 24 percentage points higher in states in which it was routinely paid for compared with hospitals in states that do not cover the procedure.
As of 2009, Medicaid paid for circumcision in 33 U.S. states.
(image via: http://alphamom.com)
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Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
A committee of the California Senate has unanimously approved a bill that declares male circumcision to have health, cultural, and other benefits that warrant its being governed by state rules, rather than city or town ordinances, The Associated Press is reporting. If passed, the bill will prevent future attempts to ban circumcisions at the local level.
“The decision to perform male circumcision should be left up to the parents in consultation with their physician, wherever they reside,” Ryan Spencer, a spokesman for the California Medical Association, testified before the Senate committee.
In July, an anti-circumcision group collected more than 7,700 signatures to get a circumcision ban onto the ballot in San Francisco. Shortly thereafter, when a coalition of Jewish and Muslim groups sued, a judge ruled that the measure could not appear on the ballot because circumcision has religious and health protections that are governed by the state, not individual cities.
The full state Senate will consider and vote on the bill next week.
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Monday, August 1st, 2011
A ballot measure that would ban circumcisions, even those performed for religious reasons, in California has been removed from the ballot by a San Francisco judge, CNN.com is reporting. The city’s Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi wrote that male circumcision is “a widely practiced medical procedure” and that medical services are left to the regulation of the state, not individual cities.
The decision was hailed by the American Civil Liberties Union’s Northern California branch: “It’s unusual for a judge to order an initiative off the ballot, but the proposed circumcision ban presented that rare case where the court should block an election on an initiative,” said ACLU-NC staff attorney Margaret Crosby in a statement. ”Not only is the ban patently illegal, it also threatened family privacy and religious freedom. The court’s order protects fundamental constitutional values in San Francisco.”
Anti-circumcision activists were disappointed in the ruling.
“To remove an initiative before it comes on ballot is an extraordinarily irregular thing to do,” Lloyd Schofield, who is part of a Bay Area advocacy group that says the surgery violates human rights and likens it to “male genital mutilation,” told CNN, “To go to this length to have it struck from the ballot is undemocratic.”
Last week in Santa Monica, the other California city considering an anti-circumcision ballot measure, the city council heard a request from the Mayor’s office to support pending state legislation that would put male circumcision under the regulatory control of the state, preventing any local bans from being enforceable.
The ballot measure would have made circumcision a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1,000 or up to a year in jail.
(image via: http://www.justicebenefitsinc.com)
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