German Cabinet Approves Law Allowing Circumcision

Move Should End Uncertainty After Controversial Court Ruling

By Reuters

Published October 10, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Germany’s cabinet approved a draft law on Wednesday protecting the right to circumcise infant boys, which it says will end months of legal uncertainty after a local court banned the practice, causing outrage among Muslims and Jews.

The June ruling by a Cologne district court that circumcision constitutes “bodily harm” sparked an emotional national debate about religious freedom and the procedure itself.

An embarrassed German government pledged to bring in new legislation by the autumn to safeguard the right of parents to have their sons circumcised.

“It was always our intention to lift this ruling,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference.

Parliament must still approve the bill for it to become law.

The speed with which national lawmakers agreed to draw up a new law underscored sensitivity to charges of intolerance in a country haunted by its Nazi past.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country risked becoming a laughing stock if Jews were not allowed to practise their rituals.

The bill states that the operation should take place with the most effective pain relief possible and only if parents have been fully informed about the nature of the procedure. It makes no mention of religious motivations for circumcision.

The court ban had applied only to the Cologne region but doctors across the country refused to carry out operations because of what they saw as a risk of legal action.

“It was very important that our government reacted so quickly and responsibly. The proposal is balanced and suitable for lifting the legal uncertainty,” said Charlotte Knobloch, a German Jewish leader.

She expressed her relief that “Germany would not become the one country in the world where Jewish people cannot practise their religion” and added she hoped the damaging public debate about circumcision would end.

About 120,000 Jews are registered as living in Germany along with around 4 million Muslims, many of them from Turkey.

The Cologne court, ruling in the case of a Muslim boy who suffered bleeding after circumcision, said the practice inflicted bodily harm and should not be carried out on young boys, although it could be performed on older males with their consent.

Anticipating the government bill, Berlin city authorities announced last month that parents were free to have their sons circumcised without fear of prosecution and the operations resumed in the German capital.


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!
  • 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?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • 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.