German cabinet backs measure on circumcision

BERLIN (JTA) — Germany’s cabinet approved a proposed law on circumcision that is welcomed by Jewish and Muslim groups.

The law, which is subject to parliamentary debate, introduces restrictions on the practice of non-medical circumcision on male children with the aim of protecting religious freedom in light of recent attacks on the practice. A vote in the parliament, or Bundestag, is expected in the fall.

The cabinet discussed the amendment on Wednesday.

A campaign against ritual circumcision by a cadre of activists, boosted by some politicians on the left, picked up steam last May after a Cologne district court ruled that the circumcision of a minor was a criminal assault.

In response, Jewish and Muslim leaders demanded a legal response that would protect their religious freedom. The proposed law is an answer to their plea.

The amendment permits religious circumcision of male minors when performed by one who is medically qualified and with parental consent and under anesthesia. Under the amendment, mohels, or Jewish ritual circumcisers, would be able to continue to perform circumcisions if they obtain the relevant medical qualification.

Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, has said in a statement that "it is especially welcome to hear that circumcision will not be regulated by criminal law but by family law." He called the amendment "a step in the right direction.”

Representatives of the Green Party, the Social Democrats and the Left Party already have protested the new proposal, according to the German news agency DPA, calling it "alarming" that the protection of a child from bodily harm seems to have taken secondary importance.

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