German Draft Law: Circumcision to Remain Legal

German Ministry of Justice prepares bill that would allow circumcision in children to take place for any reason, even by a mohel.

Germany will continue allowing circumcisions of children, according to a draft law prepared by the Ministry of Justice.

The document, published on the website of the Suddeutsche Zeitung, sets to regulate the procedure that has been at the center of a public debate that has been inflaming Germans and Jews everywhere.

According to the draft, the circumcision of boys will be legal and will not be subject to any penalty in Germany as long as it is done with the consent of the child's parents and according to medical standards, which include pain killers if needed. The draft also states that mohels will be allowed to perform the ancient rite, as opposed to only doctors.

The main limitation the law puts on circumcision is that it is illegal to perform circumcision in cases when it "endangers the wellbeing of the child.” This rather vague description is not illuminated by examples of what such cases might be.

Federal lawmakers pledged to introduce a law legalizing circumcision after a court in Cologne ruled in June that a doctor inflicted unlawful bodily harm by circumcising a 4-year-old Muslim boy at his parents' request. Although the ruling was only binding in a small region, doctors across the country halted the operations for fear of prosecution.

‪"It is a good working base. It is a compromise," says Stephan Kramer, secretary-general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, regarding the new draft law.

‪"This is just the beginning of the legal procedures. There will be hearings in parliament," said Kramer. "No law draft leaves parliament the way it entered."‬

Speaking to Haaretz, Kramer added that, while it does allow circumcisions to continue, it limits the freedoms that were available prior to the Cologne ruling.

"We will have to clarify some of the criteria during the next discussions," including the limitations posed by mention of pain relief and mohels in the draft law. "Does it mean hospital or clean environment? Does it mean tablets and cream or general anesthetic or local anasthetic with injection?" he added.‬

‪"We are open to a respectful and fact-based discussion and we will try to convince even our opponents... We have already received messages that the law will be challenged at the Supreme Court."