Council of Europe To Vote on Defining Circumcision as 'Human Rights Violation'

Decision Comes Amid Ongoing Debate on Religious Rite


By JTA

Published September 30, 2013.
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Amid calls to ban the ritual circumcision of boys in Scandinavia, the Council of Europe is slated to vote on whether to define the practice as a “clear human rights violation.”

The definition is included in a report on circumcision and female genital mutilation that was submitted recently to a vote by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, an international organization whose resolutions are nonbinding. The vote is scheduled for Tuesday.

“Circumcision applied to young boys clearly is a human rights violation against children,” reads the report, which was brought before the assembly for approval by Marlene Rupprecht, a lawmaker from Germany and rapporteur for the council’s Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.

The vote on the report, which is titled “Children’s Right to Physical Integrity,” coincides with calls by health officials and politicians from Scandinavia to ban non-medical circumcision of boys younger than 18.

On Saturday, Sweden’s children’s ombudsman and several other health care officials penned a statement that appears to specifically target the Jewish custom of circumcising 8-day-old babies.

“Circumcision without medical grounds can only be performed if a boy is of an age and maturity required to understand the information and consent to the surgery,” according to the statement, which was published in the Dagens Nyhet daily.

Muslim circumcision is mostly performed at an older age, often when boys are at least 7 or older.

Norway’s children’s ombudsman reacted to the Op-Ed by reiterating the position that non-medical circumcision of boys is a human rights violation — a stance also held by counterpart organizations in Finland, Norway and Denmark.

Last week, a motion calling to ban the practice was submitted to Sweden’s parliament by two lawmakers from the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party. Earlier this month, Denmark’s left-leaning Social Liberal Party passed an internal motion in opposition of ritual circumcision of boys.

“This is the first time in recent memory that aggressive political attacks on milah have found a legitimate vehicle at the European level,” Milah UK, a British nongovernmental organization working to defend Jewish circumcision of boys, told JTA in a statement on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe vote.

While the report will remain nonbinding even if passed, “it does clearly demonstrate that the sustained campaign to conflate the deplorable practice of female genital mutilation with milah is gaining traction at the highest levels,” according to Milah UK.


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