A German court on Tuesday ruled that circumcising young boys for religious reasons is a bodily harm, angering Jewish and Muslim groups. The court said in its judgment that a child’s right to physical integrity comes first, religious and parental rights follow.
"Fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents. The religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their child would not be unacceptably compromised, if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised," the court said in its ruling, according to the Telegraph.
Reports suggest that this judgment will likely trigger a legal battle, with Jewish and Muslim groups expected to challenge the ruling.
The court gave the judgment on the basis of a case that involved a Cologne doctor, who, on the insistence of the parents, circumcised a 4-year-old Muslim boy. After the circumcision, the boy suffered blood loss and was subsequently hospitalized. The incident led to prosecutors charging the doctor with serious bodily damage.
The case was initiated in a lower court, which set free the doctor on grounds that he had circumcised the boy legally as the parents had given their approval. Prosecutors challenged the verdict in a regional court, which also acquitted the doctor. The regional court said that there was perplexity on legal conditions about circumcision, thus declaring the doctor innocent.
However, the court elaborated its verdict and declared that parents have no right to have the circumcision performed on their young boys.
According to the NY Times, the court explained in its judgment that the body of the child is irreversibly and eternally changed by a circumcision. This bodily alteration breaches the rights of the child to decide later on his religious orientations.
Religious groups have countered the ruling very harshly. Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Committee of Jews, called the ruling "an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination,” the Telegraph reported. “The judgment was an outrageous and insensitive act. Circumcision of newborn boys is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practiced worldwide for centuries.”
It is pertinent to mention here that the World Health Organization (WHO), in its global study, estimated that nearly 1 in 3 males, 15 or over, are circumcised.