A German court has ruled that circumcision is a criminal offense, and a Norwegian political party has proposed a law to outlaw the religious practice.
Non-medical circumcision, practiced by most Jews and Muslims, causes bodily harm and therefore is a crime, a Cologne court ruled.
The practice is a "serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body,” the Cologne district court decided, the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The ruling involved the case of a Muslim doctor who performed a circumcision on a four-year-old boy, who later suffered bleeding and was taken to a hospital emergency room. The decision is likely to be appealed to the Federal Constitutional Court.
Holm Putzke of the University of Passau, who has been fighting circumcision for years, told the newspaper, “The ruling is enormously important above all for doctors because it's the first time that they have a legal certainty” that they are committing a crime.
He added, “The court has, in contrast to many politicians, not allowed itself to be scared by the fear of being criticized as anti-Semitic or opposed to religion.”
In Norway, Center Party official justice policy spokeswoman Jenny Klinge said she wants circumcision to be declared illegal, a move that would jeopardize the future of the 700-member Jewish community.
She told the Dagbladet newspaper that circumcision of girls already is prohibited and that the law should be extended to males.
Circumcision is perhaps the most widely-observed religious practice among Jews. Jewish history is marked with those who have risked their lives – and many who have lost them – for upholding the mitzvah that was first performed by the forefather Abraham.
An anti-circumcision movement in the United States last year was stopped when a petition to end the practice in San Francisco was taken off the ballot because it violated state law.
Circumcision has been credited with preventing the spread of diseases, particularly in Africa.