German court rules circumcision on boys an assault

Last updated 08:06 27/06/2012

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A German court has ruled that circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to bodily harm even if parents consent to the procedure.

Cologne state court said the child's right to physical integrity trumps freedom of religion and parents' rights, German news agency dapd reported early today (NZ time).

The case involved a doctor accused of carrying out a circumcision on a four-year-old that led to medical complications. The doctor was acquitted, however, and prosecutors said they won't appeal.

The president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, called the ruling "unprecedented and insensitive," urging the country's parliament to clarify the legal situation "to protect religious freedom against attacks."

Graumann said the circumcision of newborn Jews has been practiced for thousands of years and "every country in the world respects this religious right."

Muslims also circumcise young boys, while many parents request it on health grounds.

The state court's ruling creates a tricky legal situation for doctors who perform the procedure on parents' orders.

Unlike female circumcision, there is no law prohibiting it and the ruling isn't binding for other courts. However, it sets a precedent that would be taken into account by other German courts when ruling on similar cases.

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- AP

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