A court in Germany has ruled that male circumcision that is not medically necessary is an assault and conflicts with a child’s right to decide its own religion, and so is illegal. Unfortunately, the case has quickly developed into a “Germany versus Jews” spat. Whereas the real issue in my view is how much latitude should be given to religion in an increasingly secular society based on universal rights.
Many medical procedures such as surgery would undoubtedly constitute an assault (or worse) if doctors did not get specific permission before they did them. That’s why patients usually have to sign a consent form before going into the operating room. In the case of children, who are deemed not to have legal competence (and sometimes of others, such as the mentally ill), the person who gives consent is the parent or guardian, or possibly a court.
So, male circumcision is an exception to the general rule, which can only be justified on religious grounds. To be fair, those grounds are of long standing, since circumcision is mentioned at the very beginning of the Old Testament other religious texts I personally find to be somewhat counter intuitive to human peace – however, I digress…
Both Jews and Muslims practice circumcision; though the latter can do it at any time before puberty, for the former, it must take place precisely 8 days after birth. Whatever the date, it is unlikely that the affected boy is capable of making a rational decision about it.
Knowing that it’s been medically PROVEN by WHO and other health organizations that circumcision has no health benefit, I have to admit to being puzzled as to why so many people in the world want to practice it. It doesn’t appear to have any lasting consequences in general; though, as the case in Germany illustrates, it does sometimes go wrong, as any medical intervention can. And I can imagine that there are at least some boys who resent the effects of their parents’ decision. My puzzlement increases when I think about female circumcision, which most of the world condemns as barbaric, even though it has also been widely practiced (through perhaps more for cultural, as opposed to religious, reasons). On the other hand, it is undoubtedly the case that if the procedure had to wait until the affected person were a legal adult (i.e. nearly always post-puberty), then it would be a much bigger medical deal. And it would also be contrary to religious practice.
Since I am neither Jewish nor Muslim, I fortunately don’t have to wrestle with the consequences of this decision. But I have to say that I don’t envy those who do. Cases that have to balance almost opposing rights are always tricky. Judging by the immediate response, this one is going to be trickier than most.
I believe and know that the human body is perfect and needn’t any modifications by us. Finally, my son will not be circumcised as I beleive he should be able to make that choice!