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German Cut

Correcting Facts

Posted by zugger on 2012-07-30 07:52:31

I deem it necessary to correct some facts in the poll:

To the question: Before taking this poll were you aware that circumcision of boys was illegal in Germany?

This question is not correctly formulated. Illegal means against the law. There is no law in Germany regulating circumcision.

Obviously it is illegal in Germany, as it in most countries, to cause bodily harm (bodily assault, personal injury) to a not consenting person. In Germany there is an explicitly stated exception for medical treatments but the law doesn't provide exceptions for culturally, religiously or aesthetically motivated reasons. Nevertheless circumcisions of boys were carried out under the assumption that this practice doesn't cause any real bodily harm and that is a generally accepted procedure. The court rule just said: It is in fact a bodily assault, a personal injury and, unless done for medical reasons, therefore forbidden by law.

This case will be treated in due course by the Constitutional Court (Supreme Court) which will have to decide whether the recent sentence is in accordance to the principle of the law (Does circumcision of non-consenting children indeed constitute bodily assault?). However, the parliament is free to amend a paragraph to the Penal Code granting exception for male circumcision.

To the question Which outcome would you prefer?

There is no institution called Reichstag in Germany. The parliament's lower chamber is called Bundestag. The building's name is Reichstag.

Posted by zugger on 2012-07-30 11:41:19

The legal situation is rather difficult.

There is no clear evidence whether circumcision is beneficial from a medical point of view. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of contradictory studies and their outcome is mainly biased by the cultural background under which they have been carried out. So courts and parliament can't exclusively base their judgment upon them.

So, they might be inclined to look at the legal practice for cosmetic surgery. An adult (18+) is obviously allowed to undergo cosmetic surgery. What happens with children. The general consensus is that cosmetic surgery on minors is legal if it is to correct deformations or if it is done in order to prevent psychological damage to the minor.

Muslims and Jews will argue that within their community it would cause major psychological damage to a minor born into these communities if they are unable to undergo the procedure before reaching their 18th birthday.

Now, what happens to girls born into the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities where about 98% of girls are genitally mutilated (this practice is illegal in Germany!)? They would demand that the same principles should be applied to them.

Of course, it might be argued that removal of the foreskin is very minor surgery, comparable to piercing earrings. However, this is a dangerous area. In the latter case no healthy tissue is removed and the damage is reversible whilst in the first case irreversible damage (how small and how beneficial under some circumstances it might be) is done.

Parents' rights are also in question. How far can parents go in order to shape their children's bodies according to their will? Is breast augmentation of 14 year olds OK? (The general judicial practice says "no")

German Law says clearly that parents have the right to decide over the life of their children but not if it is against the well being of the child.

What happens if anything goes wrong (this happens rarely, but sometimes)? The parents would usually write off their right to sue the person carrying out the surgery. But if the boy reaches 14 he can legally sue his parents.

This may even happen if nothing goes wrong. The 14, 16 or 18 year old may suddenly find that he would have preferred to decide by himself whether he would have liked to undergo the surgery.

Here the case was a 4 year old who had been circumcised which led to complications a couple of days after the surgery which made the state prosecutors take legal action against the surgeon.

He was eventually absolved (because he did carry out the surgery according to good medical practice and mainly because he had to assume that a common and widespread practice was in accordance with the law).

Posted by fdostoevski on 2012-08-11 04:17:20

I think it would be absurd if the Jewish or Islamic communities actually argued that NOT circumcising their boys before a reasonable age of decision would cause psychological damage. There is a far more evidence that being circumcised causes psychological damage than not being circumcised. Also circumcision is not reversible, whereas any boy troubled by not being circumcised has the option of become so at any time. The argument that NOT being circumcised is psychologically harmful is both ridiculous and insulting.

Posted by shaun h on 2012-08-17 16:15:10

Didn't we get rid of Hitler and his anti-Jewish policies over 70 years ago now? This whole debate strikes me as a return to the 3rd Reich, and their fairy stories about the so-called "Jewish menace". Let each religion get on with their traditions, and stop trying to impose a world view on them they patently don't want.

Posted by zugger on 2012-08-20 15:31:18

It seems you ( shaun h ) didn't read the original post.

This is not an anti jewish policy.

Actually near all politicians (at least in Germany) agree that a law should be made to make religiously originated circumcisions legal.

In the past a number of lower courts have ruled that male circumcision is, if done properly, not a crime because it's considered a minor surgery on one hand and as very important for certain ethnic minorities - namely muslims and jews - on the other.

The recent court sentence just stated that there is no specific law permitting circumcision whilst causing physical injury to a person without medical indication (the irreversible removal of healthy body tissue was considered "physical injury" by the court) is.

Politics will certainly eventually take action but after this case has made its way through the justice system. The case will be treated at the Federal High Court, and if this agrees that circumcision is not legal under current law, it will probably go to the Federal Constitutional Court and might eventually end up at the European Human Rights Court - which will be definitely the final destination.

If one of the higher courts rules in favour of the legality the state will not pursue the case any further and leave it like that.