Wednesday, 23 October, 2019

Circumcision in boys – a question of faith or medical sense?


The judges from Cologne had probably not expected that. After classifying the religiously motivated circumcision of boys as punishable, a debate began, which caused a stir throughout the republic. There is a daily discussion about what takes precedence – religious freedom and its long tradition or the protection of the child. The medical necessity is also thrown into the balance.

The Federal Government is in the midst of a dilemma that seems hardly solvable. It has to take a stand on a topic that could hardly have two more different points of view. And of course everyone has an opinion. Just how difficult the thing is, shows only a look at the topic of child abuse. In any other context, there would be general agreement that the protection of children must come first. However, when it comes to religion, other factors play a role. Fighters for the rights of children resist the hair on the hackles. Religious convicts are deprived of their tradition. Is the discussion even going to end?

What is it about

The circumcision in boys is nothing special. It may be medically necessary or advised for hygienic reasons. The verdict, however, was about religiously motivated circumcision. And they equate the judges with bodily harm, even if the parents expressly request the intervention. In fact, the judge’s award was about two freedoms. The freedom of the child or the right to physical integrity on the one hand. And the religious freedom on the other side. In the end, the right of the child to self-determination against the freedom of religious education won in court. But that was the beginning of the trouble.

Tradition versus human rights?

Chancellor Merkel is in a bind. She says she does not want Germany to be the only country where religious circumcision is banned. It also opened the door to practices in dark streets and behind closed doors. So she has many advocates who say that if circumcision is banned, other ways and means will be found to comply with ancient traditions. And they are more than 4,000 years old, according to the proponents of circumcision. A strong argument, no doubt. But one that, for example, Irmingard Schewe-Gerigk, chairman of the organization “Terre de Femmes” does not let pass. She says that neither the Koran nor the Bible say that circumcision has to be done. Schewe-Gerigk admits, that interventions in boys or girls have a very old tradition. But that would also widow burns or stoning of adulterers – and they would not be carried out. Schewe-Gerigk sees the welfare of the child in the foreground and is based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to abolish all harmful to human customs.

Anxiety attacks by circumcision

The psychotherapist Matthias Franz goes one step further. For him, the circumcision of boys is something that causes trauma and anxiety attacks. Especially if the intervention is made on infants or young children, the consequences are catastrophic, according to Franz. Nevertheless, he finds the political problems comprehensible. For Jews and Muslims, circumcision is a deep-rooted conviction. It is highly problematic to want to take them. The psychotherapist advocates a dialogue and solutions such as the later circumcision. Here, too, Franz sees difficulties, but not as traumatic as the intervention on little boys.

No rush, please!

Numerous physicians, scientists and lawyers urge caution when it comes to circumcision. In an open letter they write that the topic is too sensitive “for political snap shots”. Rather patience is advised. Indirectly, however, they take a stand because they, too, focus on the best interests of the child. But no one really wants to commit himself. Even the experts, who emphasize that the concerns of religious groups should be considered. The signers of the open letter agreed only in one point: it was not a question of making Jewish life in Germany impossible. This accusation was in the last few weeks in the room. Rather, it was the goal to protect Jewish and Muslim life through the German legal system.

The people’s voice

Politicians, educators, journalists, scientists, lawyers, psychologists, Jews, Muslims, human rights organizations – everyone has something to say right now when it comes to circumcising boys. It is in the nature of things that opinions differ and political explosives play a crucial role in the debate. Missing only the opinion of the population, which is partly astonished pursued, which is discussed in public and sometimes vigorously involved. You can feel how divided the opinions are here as well as in all other discussions.

Emnid has therefore made a survey to explore the opinion of the Germans. The result is clearly ambiguous. Forty percent of respondents are in favor of legalizing circumcision as it is being discussed. And 48 percent are clearly against it. In addition to all these voices, there are others who mix with doctors. So far, they have been able to make circumcisions in legal gray areas. However, this is now over by the Cologne verdict. And so every doctor will think twice, three or four times if he is willing to do the surgery. The risk for doctors has increased many times over. That, too, is the consequence of the problem. Infants and toddlers could not comment. So the ones that ultimately matter.

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