Leading Swedish and Danish Medical Groups Call for Bris Ban

Child Must Be Atleast 12 and Consent to Procedure, Say Groups

A family prepares for a bris in Berlin. A number of European countries have proposed bans on the ritual.
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A family prepares for a bris in Berlin. A number of European countries have proposed bans on the ritual.

By JTA

Published January 26, 2014.
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Large medical associations in Sweden and Denmark recommended banning non-medical circumcision of boys.

In Sweden, the recommendation came in a resolution that was unanimously adopted last week by the ethics council of the Sweden Medical Association – a union whose members constitute 85 percent of the country’s physicians, the Svenska Dagbladet daily reported on Saturday.

It recommended setting 12 as the minimum age for the procedure and the boy’s consent. Jewish ritual circumcision, or brit milah, is performed eight days after birth. Muslims typically circumcise boys before they turn 10.

In Denmark, the Danish College of General Practitioners – a group with 3,000 members – said in statement that non-medical circumcision of boys amounted to abuse and mutilation, the Danish BT tabloid reported Sunday.

“We are not religious experts, but for medical reasons, we cannot approve a procedure that removes tissue from the genitals in which the risk is so great for serious complications,” the Swedish association’s ethics officer, Thomas Flodin, said. The association recommendation also said that circumcision should be performed only by physicians in a medical facility.

The association’s recommendation is non-binding and Sweden’s minister for integration, Erik Ullenhag, said existing rules that allow for ritual circumcision would not be changed.

In Sweden, non-medical and medical circumcision may be performed only by licensed professionals, as per legislation from 2001. Under the legislation, Jewish ritual circumcisers, or mohelim, in Sweden receive their licenses from the country’s health board, but a nurse or doctor must still be present when they perform the procedure.

“I have never met any adult man who experienced circumcision as an assault. The procedure is not very intensive and parents have the right to raise their children according to their faith and tradition,” Ullenhag said. “If we prohibit it, we must also address the issue of the Christian ritual of baptism.”

In recent years, Scandinavian countries have seen an intensification of efforts to ban ritual circumcision by activists who say it violates children’s rights and by anti-immigration nationalists who seek to limit the effect that Muslim or Jewish presence is having on Swedish society. In September, the rightist Sweden Democrats Party submitted a motion in parliament in favor of banning ritual circumcision.

In October, the children’s ombudsmen of all Nordic countries — Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway — released a joint declaration proposing a ban on circumcision.


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