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Germany drafts new circumcision rules

Germany's justice ministry has floated new rules that would legalize circumcision if parents agree and the practitioner is medically skilled. Muslim and Jewish citizens were outraged in June by a Cologne court decision.

Key points of draft legislation sent by the ministry to Germany's regional states and interest groups on Tuesday indicated that circumcision on infant and newborn boys would be allowed.

But there would provisos; for example, that the "most effective pain relief possible" be used.

The June ruling by Cologne's regional court found that circumcision was unlawful because it breached the bodily clause in Article 2 of Germany's constitution. That guarantees each person his or her bodily integrity.

Non-punishable

Under the proposed change to Germany's Civil Law Code, the removal of a boy's foreskin by a doctor would still amount to bodily harm but this would no longer be defined as a punishable offence.

Aside from doctors, a religious practitioner, if skilled like a surgeon, could also conduct circumcisions on infants under six months of age.

Prior to the procedure, parents must receive full information.

The guidelines also state that circumcision cannot be carried out on boys with hemophilia and those whose welfare is at risk.

A spokesman for German Justice Minster Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said the change should remove the legal uncertainty left by the Cologne ruling.

Change welcomed

In an initial reaction, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann told the news agency dpa that the draft met many of the wishes of the Jewish community.

"For this the justice ministry deserves respect," Graumann said.

"Now it's a matter of persuading the opponents of circumcision," he said.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper said the ministry had sought submissions from interest groups by October 1, ahead of a parliamentary debate.

Greens party co-leader Renate Künast urged the Bundestag parliament to debate the topic very thoroughly and conduct a conscience vote, not along party lines.

In June, Jewish and Muslim groups had united in opposition against the Cologne ruling. About 4 million Muslims and 200,000 Jews reside in Germany.

mkg/ipj (AFP, kna)

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