Legal Clarity Berlin Presents Draft Law Allowing Circumcision

Following months of acrimonious debate over whether circumcision was legal in Germany, the Justice Ministry in Berlin has now presented a draft law that would ensure the procedure remains unpunishable. The German Jewish community has welcomed the move.
Germany's Justice Ministry has formulated a draft law that would allow circumcisions.

Germany's Justice Ministry has formulated a draft law that would allow circumcisions.

Foto: Bea Kallos/ dpa

Germany's Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has formulated two brief paragraphs in an attempt to solve a problem that had earned Germany global critique: She introduced a draft law on Tuesday that would ensure that circumcision remains unpunishable. The law would require parental consent and would require that the procedure "be performed according to the standards of medical practice," according to the Justice Ministry draft, which SPIEGEL ONLINE has seen. Circumcision would remain prohibited in cases where the procedure might endanger the child's well-being.

Legal clarity became necessary following the verdict last June  by a regional court in Cologne which found that circumcision for religious reasons was an indictable offense. It was a ruling which resulted in international condemnation from religious groups and sharp words from Germany's Jewish  and Muslim communities -- and triggered an intense  debate  in Germany. German parliament passed a resolution in July  calling for the Justice Ministry to draft a law to ensure that the circumcision of boys remains possible when performed by a medical professional.

The proposal from the Justice Ministry would also allow mohel -- those who perform circumcisions in the Jewish tradition -- to carry out the procedure. "In the first six months following the birth of a child, those designated by a religious community to carry out circumcisions, even if they are not doctors, may do so should they be especially trained and competent to perform a circumcision," the draft reads.

'Respect and Appreciation'

Despite the language specifically pertaining to religious circumcision, the draft law would also allow parents to consent to circumcision for health reasons. It does not require the use of anesthetic, saying merely that the phrase "according to the standards of medical practice" also covers the "necessary and effective treatment of pain in individual cases."

The Justice Ministry plans to present the draft law to a group of experts for discussion on Friday.

Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, commented on Tuesday that the draft addresses many of the concerns German Jews  had about the Cologne court ruling. "The Justice Ministry deserves our respect and appreciation for presenting such an intelligent draft," he said in a statement. Graumann added that the draft is a good basis for further discussion, saying that some minor adjustments will have to be made. "Now," he said, "it is time to focus on convincing opponents of circumcision."

With information from wire reports
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