Danish Health Director: No Risks To Justify Banning Non-Medical Circumcision

Denmark’s national health authority sees no risks to justify recommending a ban on the non-medical circumcision of boys, the body’s director said in parliament.

The Danish Health and Medicines Authority’s director-general, Else Smith, made the statement during her address at a debate in the Danish parliament on Wednesday on the custom, which two Danish parties and the kingdom’s children’s ombudsman support banning because they find it violates children’s rights.

The Politiken daily quoted Smith as saying that while there is insufficient evidence to justify recommending the practice, the risks do not give rise to any recommendation to ban it, either.

The debate was organized by the Danish parliament’s group on for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Support for a ban was reiterated during the debate by the Red-Green Alliance and the Liberal Alliance, whose combined electoral weight is 11 percent of the Danish parliament’s 179 seats.

Ole Birk Olesen, a lawmaker for Liberal Alliance, responded to Smith’s assertion by comparing circumcision with finger amputation and genital mutilation. “Doctors can also remove small children’s small fingers without risk if they do it correctly. Should it be allowed to amputate young children’s little fingers without a medical reason,” he demanded.

The debate in parliament comes amid a discussion across northern Europe on the Jewish and Muslim practice which resurged in 2012, with left-leaning liberals and secularist calling for a ban for humanitarian reasons and nationalist anti-immigration parties supporting a prohibition it because they feel the custom is a foreign and barbaric element in Danish society.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, presdient of the European Conference of Presidents, who visited Denmark last month, told JTA that activists against non-medical circumcision of boys, or brith milah, as it is called in Hebrew, plan to focus their lobbying efforts on the kingdom. “The mixture of a secularist society, anti-Israel sentiment, a hostile far-right and threats by radical Muslims make life increasingly difficult for Danish Jews,” he said.

In a poll released earlier this week, nearly three quarters of 1,000 Danish respondents said they supported banning non-medical circumcision of boys fully or partially.

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