Germany keeps male circumcision as a legal practice

Under the new law, a doctor or trained expert must conduct the operation and children must be subjected to as little pain as possible, which means an anesthetic should be used

BERLIN - German politicians passed a law on Wednesday to protect the right to circumcise infant boys in a show of support for Muslims and Jews angered by a local court ban on the practice in May.

A ban, imposed on the grounds that circumcision amounted to "bodily harm," triggered an emotional debate over the treatment of Jews and other religious minorities, a sensitive subject in a country still haunted by its Nazi past.

The outcry prompted Germany's center-right government and opposition parties to draw up legislation confirming the practice was legal, overruling the decision by a court in the western city of Cologne.

The new law passed by an overwhelming majority in the Bundestag lower house.

 Jewish groups welcomed the move.

"This vote and the strong commitment shown ... to protect this most integral practice of the Jewish religion is a strong message to our community for the continuation and flourishing of Jewish life in Germany," said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress.

Germany's Catholic Bishops Conference said it hoped the bill would help safeguard religious freedoms. No comment was immediately available from the country's Central Council of Muslims.

PAIN MINIMIZED

The issue centered on the case of a Muslim boy who bled after the procedure and the ban only applied to the area around Cologne.

But some doctors in other parts of Germany started refusing to carry out circumcisions, saying it was unclear whether they would face prosecution.

Under the new law, a doctor or trained expert must conduct the operation and children must be subjected to as little pain as possible, which means an anesthetic should be used. The procedure can't be done if there is any doubt about the child's health.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said no other country in the world country had made the religious circumcision of boys an offense.

"In our modern and secular state, it is not the job of the state to interfere in children's' upbringing," she said.

Child welfare group Deutsche Kinderhilfe disagreed, saying the government had "(pushed) through the legalization of the ritual of genital circumcision ... against the advice of child right campaigners and the medical profession."

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers)

 

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