Denmark’s national health authority does not think non-medical circumcision is risky enough to justify a ban on it, the body’s director said in parliament.
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The Danish Health and Medicines Authority’s director-general, Else Smith, made the statement during her address at a debate in the Danish parliament Wednesday. Two Danish parties and the country’s children’s ombudsman support a ban because they believe circumcision violates children’s rights.
The Politiken daily quoted Smith as saying that while there is insufficient evidence to justify recommending the practice, the risks aren’t serious enough to require a ban.
The debate was organized by the Danish parliament’s group on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Support for a ban was reiterated during the debate by the Red-Green Alliance and the Liberal Alliance, whose combined electoral weight is 11 percent of the Danish parliament’s 179 seats.
Ole Birk Olesen, a lawmaker for Liberal Alliance, responded to Smith’s assertion by comparing circumcision with finger amputation and genital mutilation.
“Doctors can also remove small children’s small fingers without risk if they do it correctly. Should it be allowed to amputate young children’s little fingers without a medical reason?” he demanded.
The debate in parliament comes amid a discussion across northern Europe on the Jewish and Muslim practice. Interest in the topic resurged in 2012, with left-leaning liberals and secularist calling for a ban for humanitarian reasons and nationalist anti-immigration parties supporting a prohibition because they feel the custom is a foreign and barbaric element in Danish society.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the European Conference of Presidents, who visited Denmark last month, told JTA that activists against non-medical circumcision of boys, or brit milah, as it is called in Hebrew, plan to focus their lobbying efforts on Denmark. “The mixture of a secularist society, anti-Israel sentiment, a hostile far-right and threats by radical Muslims make life increasingly difficult for Danish Jews,” he said.
In a poll released earlier this week, nearly three quarters of 1,000 Danish respondents said they supported fully or partially banning non-medical circumcision of boys.