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.
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At the center of the Danish debate is Morten Frisch, an epidemiologist from the Statens Serum Institut, in Copenhagen. His recent study concluded that circumcised men reported “frequent orgasm difficulties” and that their female partners suffered “a range of frequent sexual difficulties.”

Frisch has been joined by Jews who also oppose circumcision. Under the headline “Can You Give Me My Foreskin Back?,” Leo Milgrom, 32, wrote an open letter to Denmark’s chief rabbi, Bent Lexner, saying that “it is wrong to maintain a practice that unnecessarily cuts parts off small children.”

Pointing out that modern Jews ignore many of the 613 commandments, Milgrom suggested it was time to end ritual circumcision. “I would never in my life permit anybody at all to cut something off my penis,” Milgrom wrote. “And how,” he asked Lexner, “would you advise my parents, who didn’t even consider or reflect that they said yes to a mutilation, an operation without any clinical justification and without a painkiller, on their own son?”

Herbert Pundik, a senior, Israel-based correspondent for Politiken, said circumcision has become a regular topic of debate in Denmark. “The fact it does excite attention, this is a positive thing,” said Pundik, who was Politiken’s chief editor for almost 24 years. “I’m not against circumcision, but am very for the fact that it should be discussed.”

The controversy in Denmark was ignited by a recent court ruling in Cologne, Germany, which found that the botched circumcision of a 4-year-old Muslim boy violated the child’s right to physical integrity.

The German Medical Association advised its members to halt nonmedical circumcisions out of fear that they would be prosecuted. German politicians had to step in to reassure Jews and Muslims that the right to circumcise their children would not be infringed.

On July 15, Anders Jerichow, president of the Danish PEN society and a senior correspondent and editor at Politiken, wrote an editorial lauding the German political response, calling religious freedom one of the “most important and fragile columns of democracy.”


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