The court said that a child’s right to physical integrity trumps religious and parental rights. The case surrounded by controversy involved a doctor who carried out a circumcision on a four-year-old that led to medical complications.
The doctor involved in the case was acquitted. Although the ruling is not binding, it sets a precedent that could be taken into account by other German courts.
Circumcision, it decided, conflicts with the “interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs”.
Unlike female circumcision, male circumcision is legal in Germany, however the court’s judgement said the “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents”.
The decision has caused outrage among Jewish and Muslim groups. Thousands of Muslim and Jewish boys are circumcised in Germany every year as part of ancient religious rituals.
The president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, told the BBC the case ruling is “an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination”.
He implored parliament to clarify the legal situation “to protect religious freedom against attacks”.
In other countries, such as the United States, it is not uncommon for parents to request that young boys are circumcised for health reasons.
However it is unclear how this case will impact the future of circumcision in Germany, but it has opened up a moral and political minefield.
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