Search This Blog

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


A lower level court in Köln recently ruled that ritual circumcision performed on baby boys constitutes a bodily injury (albeit, they said, minor) and is both a denial of a child's right to physical integrity and to its right to self-determination - which in the case of circumcision a boy could exercise when old enough to choose for himself. Consequently, those who instigate circumcisions (the parents)and those who perform them (the doctors) are both, in principle, criminally liable.

This fairly simple and straightforward court ruling is to be welcomed. Parents have no rights to mutilate their children's bodies even if they have "religious" reasons for wanting to do so and even if they employ doctors rather than traditional practitioners to do it for them.

It is one of the fundamental duties of the state to protect those who are not able to protect themselves - in this case, because they are too young. In traditional Judaism, ritual circumcision should be performed in the first eight days of life.

The form of the Köln ruling provides protection for both boys and girls - who, as we all know, are also targets for genital mutilation though within different cultures and for different reasons. In both cases, the mutilation can go horribly wrong - children can and do die.

The Jewish and Muslim religious "leaders" who are now protesting do protest too much. They know in their hearts that they are arguing in defence of a crime against children. They also know that they do not speak for all members of their communities: for example, there have been Jews opposed to ritual circumcision of baby boys for at least a hundred years.

And there are "lax" Jews who do not order the circumcision of their sons. The Köln court ruling gives encouragement to such laxness and this is why religious "leaders" don't like it: it further weakens their hold. We should remember that it is not only in the Christian world that religious "leaders" are often only tenuously connected to those they claim to lead. As Melinda Gates has recently made very clear, in defending birth control though herself a practising Catholic, the Pope does not speak for Catholics. Unfortunately, the mass media normally content themselves with reporting only the views of the "leaders". Melinda Gates broke through the barrier only because of her high profile and probably has more Catholics on her side than does the Pope.

Genital mutilation is a speciality of torturers and, often enough, a terrifying weapon in civil wars like those in Chechnya and Afghanistan. It has no place in civilised life and doctors who have sworn their Oath should take no part in it.

1 comment:

  1. What 'they know in their hearts' and what you like to think they know are two diffeent things. Underestimate the power of entrenched cultural beliefs and you end up with a simplistic view of the world.