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Religion

Court Outlaws Religious Genital Mutilation of Children

How do you feel about religious-based genital mutilation of children?

Horrified, I imagine.

The chances are that you recoil at the very notion, and yet such mutilation is legal in many countries, including Ireland.

Did you know that?  Did you know that here in Ireland, it’s perfectly legal for a clergyman to mutilate an infant’s genitalia?  It has been so for generations, but only for certain religions.

For some reason, the teachings of Judaism and those of Islam are sufficient reason to permit the surgical removal of a vital part of an infant boy’s genitalia, without medical  justification.

In this country, we quite rightly abhor the practice of female circumcision, and we prosecute anyone who attempts to carry out such a barbaric operation, yet we tolerate male circumcision, even when the only justification for it is the fact that certain religions require it and it has been carried out for thousands of years.

This is not a good reason to permit anything.  We did many things for thousands of years that we would these days regard as barbaric, but it took a German court to put it in perspective.  This was a particularly brave decision for obvious reasons, since Jewish groups are outraged about it, some of them calling the decision anti-Semitic.

In truth, it’s not a whole lot different to the Irish courts’ decisions about Jehovah’s Wtnesses trying to prevent blood transfusions for their children.  You can’t apply biblical criteria to your children’s health in a secular society.

The case involved a Muslim doctor who circumcised a child which was later admitted to hospital for heavy bleeding.  The doctor was charged with grievous bodily harm.  According to the regional court in Cologne, the “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents”.

The court made the point that a child could decide at a later stage of life to be circumcised, but that the parents didn’t have the right to inflict such an injury on a toddler, and who could argue with that?

Not surprisingly, the court’s decision caused utter uproar among Germany’s Jews and Muslims.

The head of the Central Committee of Jews, Dieter Graumann, described the court decision as an outrageous and insensitive act. Circumcision of newborn boys is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practised worldwide for centuries.

It’s hard to see how this is a valid argument in favour of child injury.  We have been mutilating boys for centuries and we believe we should because God said so.  Allow us to keep doing it.

No.  Just stop.

If a Nigerian put forward the same argument in favour of female mutilation, would anyone support him?

I see no difficulty with a grown man, Jewish or Muslim, deciding to be mutilated, but in a civilised society, I can see no justification for inflicting it on a young child.  Can you?