Berlin hospital suspends circumcisions after court ruling

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Berlin's Jewish Hospital will suspend circumcisions after a German court ruled this week that performing the procedure on religious grounds is unlawful, a hospital spokesman said Friday.

"We are suspending circumcisions until the legal position is clear," Gerhard Nerlich told AFP, citing head of internal medicine Kirstof Graf.

The hospital performs 300 circumcisions a year, a third of which are for religious reasons and the remainder due to medical concerns.

"We regularly performed circumcisions before this ruling but we don't have the legal freedom to do so any more," said Nerlich, adding that two procedures had already been cancelled.

Earlier on Friday German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle weighed in the debate, saying the country protected religious freedom and traditions.

"The ruling on circumcision has provoked annoyance internationally," Westerwelle wrote on his official Twitter account.

"We have to be clear: religious traditions are protected in Germany," he added.

A regional court in Cologne ruled that circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to grievous bodily harm in a judgement which triggered accusations that parents' rights were being trampled on.

The case, which could set a precedent, was brought against a doctor in Cologne who had circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy on his parents' wishes.

A few days after the operation, his parents took him to hospital as he was bleeding heavily and prosecutors charged the doctor.

The court later acquitted the doctor himself of causing harm.

Muslim and Jewish groups along with top Christian clerics have voiced opposition to the ruling.

Westerwelle was also quoted in the Bild's online edition on Thursday saying that Germany "is an open and tolerant country where religious freedom is well established and where religious traditions like circumcision as an expression of religious diversity are protected."

© 2012 AFP

3 Comments To This Article

  • Joseph4GI posted:

    on 30th June 2012, 05:05:42 - Reply

    "We have to be clear: religious traditions are protected in Germany..." unless it is female circumcision. Then it's "different."

    That is, until now...
  • Survey Programmer posted:

    on 30th June 2012, 00:43:24 - Reply

    Herr Westerwelle forgot to finish his sentence: We have to be clear: religious traditions are protected in Germany, ...even at the expense of children's rights.

    Circumcision of unconsenting children without medical need carries immediate and long-term adverse physical, sexual and psychological consequences, as documented by the Global Survey of Circumcision Harm [].

    It's disappointing that Westerwelle, an openly gay man and lawyer, fails to grasp the importance of the child's right to bodily integrity and genital autonomy.

    The court ruled correctly that when there's a conflict between a parent's religious beliefs/customs and the bodily integrity of the child upon whom a harmful custom is imposed, the child should be given the benefit of legal protection.
  • James Loewen posted:

    on 29th June 2012, 22:41:23 - Reply

    Good! It's about time a country stood up for the rights of children.

    Cutting off part of a child's genital organ is abuse. Every child has a basic human right to the body they were born with. Looking forward to seeing what other countries follow next.