German Court Bars Woman From Circumcising 6-year-old Son

After Germany passes law that legalizes circumcision under strict conditions, court says mother's plea for circumcising her son is not medically justified.

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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A German court has barred a mother from circumcising her six-year-old son, claiming the procedure will cause the boy psychological damage.

For the first time, a German court relied on the country's new circumcision law that was passed last year, which legalized circumcision under strict conditions.

A German-born woman of Kenyan descent from the city of Dortmund wanted to circumcise her six-year-old son, claiming that this is the custom of her family and friends in Africa. She expressed fears that her relatives would frown upon the fact that her son was not circumcised when she visited them with him in Kenya.

The case reached the highest court in North Rhine-Westphalia in the city of Hamm, where the judges ruled that the woman could not circumcise her son, claiming that the surgery is not medically justified. They also said that the mother did not take into account the wellbeing of the child and did not consult with him before making the decision, as is stipulated in the law.

The judges ruled that the surgery could psychologically damage the boy, saying that such a move is not justified especially since the mother and child reside in Germany and travel to Kenya rarely.

The ruling was handed out at the end of August but only published recently.

Last year, German lawmakers approved a bill to keep male infant circumcision legal after a regional court ruled earlier this year that the practice amounts to bodily harm.
The government proposed the law in the wake of harsh criticism of the Cologne court ruling from Jewish and Muslim groups.

The new law, which passed with 434 votes for, 100 against and 46 abstaining, grants parents the right to have their sons circumcised by a trained practitioner. Once the boy reaches six months of age the procedure needs to be performed by a doctor.

Equipment used for carrying out circumcision. Credit: Ilya Melnikov