Tolerant Denmark Debates Circumcision Ban

Some See Practice as Violation of Children's Rights


By Paul Berger

Published August 20, 2012, issue of August 24, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Tolerant Denmark, the nation that famously saved its Jews during World War II, is embroiled in a fierce debate about whether circumcision should be medically supervised or even banned.

The Scandinavian country is not alone: Health officials in Norway, Austria and Switzerland have also questioned circumcision this summer. But in Denmark, the debate has dominated the media as a topic for public discussion.

The furor follows hard on the heels of a ruling by a local German court outlawing circumcision, and a local Dutch court banning ritual slaughter. Both rulings, later overturned by higher courts, and the debate in Denmark reflect a deep-seated secularism in Northern Europe that is becoming increasingly hostile toward Jewish and Muslim practices.

“Now we know again that large parts of the Danish population, leading doctors, leading ethicists and many politicians suffer from acute spiritual and cultural phimosis [a tightening of the foreskin],” Danish journalist Martin Krasnik wrote in a July 27 article in the newspaper Politiken.

Krasnik, one of several Danish Jews to come to circumcision’s defense, complained bitterly of the “freak show of commentaries and readers’ letters” that filled newspaper columns, websites and television talk shows in Denmark this summer, transforming a usually slow news cycle into the “golden days of a good old-fashioned culture of radical xenophobia, self-righteousness and disgusting wiener talk.”

Circumcision opponents retort that their stance has nothing to do with xenophobia or religious prejudice. Instead, they say, it is about protecting children’s rights. Backed by research suggesting that circumcision causes babies intense pain and harms some men’s sex lives, a chorus of critics, including secularists and politicians, say circumcision must be stopped.

Politicians from several Danish parties questioned why a requirement that a doctor be present during ritual circumcision is not routinely followed. Others went further. Jørgen Arbo-Bæhr, a Member of Parliament for the socialist Red-Green Alliance, told The Copenhagen Post, “We advocate a ban on circumcision.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.