Eritrean Woman Held for Home Circumcision of Four-year-old Son

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An Eritrean migrant waiting to cross into Israel.
Illustration of an Eritrean migrant woman.Credit: Reuters

An Eritrean woman living in Eilat has been arrested on suspicion of personally performing a circumcision on her four-year-old son.

The boy's nursery school teacher called police and welfare authorities after examining the boy when she saw him limp, and saw that he suffered an injury to his penis. He was taken to hospital, released later the same day and placed in foster care, in addition to his siblings.

Police then went to arrest the boy's mother, who has said that what she did is an acceptable tradition in Eritrea. 

The woman's public defender, Nimrod Aviram, said that no translator accompanied the police and consequently, a confrontation ensued in the confusion when they arrived because she was afraid the officers would seize her children.

As a result the woman is now being held on three counts, suspicion of causing serious bodily harm, assaulting a police office and interfering with an arrest. A court ordered her held in custody through Monday, and oמ Monday the court extended her arrest until Wednesday.

 A judge rejected a police request to arrest her partner on suspicion of child abuse on grounds that another child in the home had marks on his chin and another a bite mark which the mother allegedly admitted to causing.

Aviram said he hoped the woman would not be indicted. "It sounds shocking to perform a circumcision without anaesthesia but if you think about how if he were a helpless baby it's okay, acceptable, we never thought about how, you do a brit, nobody would challenge that although it is clear that this baby couldn't give his consent and if he could be asked he wouldn't give his consent."

Leonardo Cohen, a lecturer in Ethiopian studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told Haaretz that the woman's defense had a factual basis, because in Ethiopia and Eritrea some circumcise boys as babies but others perform the ritual at a later age.

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