25 September 2012
Germany's Justice Ministry has presented an outline draft for new rules that would legalize circumcision if parents agree and the practitioner is medically skilled. Key points of draft legislation sent by the ministry to Germany's 16 state governments as well as to interest groups indicate that circumcision on infant and newborn boys would be allowed. The bill is aimed at putting an end to the current legal uncertainty after a Cologne court banned the practice if it is carried out on minors on religious grounds.
The May ruling, which became known only at the end of June, outraged both Muslims and Jews and sparked an emotional debate in Germany. Although the ban applied only to the Cologne region, doctors across the country refused to carry out operations because of what they saw as a risk of legal action.
The outline draft also states that the operation should take place "with the most effective pain relief possible" and only if parents have been fully informed about the nature of the procedure, a ministry spokesman said. Under the proposed change to the Civil Law Code, the removal of a boy's foreskin by a doctor would still amount to bodily harm but this would no longer be defined as a punishable offense.
Aside from doctors, a religious practitioner, if skilled like a surgeon, could also conduct circumcisions on infants under age of six months. The guidelines also state that circumcision cannot be carried out on boys with hemophilia and those whose welfare is at risk.
In a first reaction, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, told the news agency DPA that the draft met many of the wishes of the Jewish community. "For this, the Justice Ministry deserves our respect," Graumann said, adding: "Now it's a matter of persuading the opponents of circumcision.” Stephan Kramer, secretary general of the council, told the newspaper 'Haaretz': "It is a good working base. It is a compromise. This is just the beginning of the legal procedure. There will be hearings in parliament,. No law draft leaves parliament the way it entered.”
The ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine’ newspaper said the ministry had sought submissions from interest groups by 1 October, ahead of a parliamentary debate.
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