In response to the decision by a court in Cologne (Germany) against circumcision of minors for religious reasons, the German government recently announced its intention to adopt legislation which would go in the opposite direction, according legal protection to ritual circumcision. We contend, having taken legal advice, that the practice is in breach of the following international instruments:

  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Article 24(3) commits states parties to “take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children”.
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 7 prohibits “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” which we consider this practice to amounts to.

The International Association of Free Thought opposes the proposed legislative change and condemns any and all mutilation of the human body without consent and without medical justification.

Although male circumcision as a form of bodily mutilation is much less serious than excision (clitoridectomy) practiced on girls and young women, it is nevertheless unacceptable when performed without the consent of the individual and without valid medical justification, because it is a violation of the individual’s physical integrity. Furthermore, when circumcision is performed on young boys for religious reasons, the result is an indelible mark of religious affiliation, made without the consent of the individual thus branded, and thus constitutes a violation of freedom of conscience. The fact that this practice is a very old tradition in several religious communities does not in any way justify it.

It is also important not be distracted by false accusations of antisemitism. The German government, if it abandons its proposed legislation, can take a decisive step against an unjustifiable religious privilege which all nations should prohibit.

  • Christian Eyschen (France)
  • David Rand (Canada)
  • Albert Riba (Spain)
  • David Silverman (USA)
  • Antonio Vergara (Chile)
  • Keith Porteous Wood (UK)

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Categories: Resolutions