German politicians have passed a law to protect the right to
circumcise infant boys in a show of support for Muslims and
Jews angered by a local court ban on the practice in May.
The ban - imposed on the grounds that circumcision amounted
to "bodily harm" - triggered an emotional debate over the
treatment of Jews and other religious minorities, a sensitive
subject in a country still haunted by its Nazi past.
The outcry prompted Germany's centre-right government and
opposition parties to draw up legislation confirming the
practice was legal - overruling the decision by a court in
the western city of Cologne.
The new law passed by an overwhelming majority in Bundestag
lower house said the operation could be carried out, as long
as parents were informed about the risks.
Jewish groups welcomed the move.
"This vote and the strong commitment shown ... to protect
this most integral practice of the Jewish religion is a
strong message to our community for the continuation and
flourishing of Jewish life in Germany," said Moshe Kantor,
President of the European Jewish Congress.
Germany's Catholic Bishops Conference said it hoped the bill
would help safeguard religious freedoms. No comment was
immediately available from the country's Central Council of
The May ruling centred on the case of a Muslim boy who bled
after the procedure and the ban only applied to the area
But some doctors in other parts of Germany started refusing
to carry out circumcisions, saying it was unclear whether
they would face prosecution.
Under the new law, a doctor or trained expert must conduct
the operation and children must endure as little pain as
possible, which means an anaesthetic should be used. The
procedure can not take place if there is any doubt about the
Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said no
other country in the world country had made the religious
circumcision of boys an offence.
"In our modern and secular state, it is not the job of the
state to interfere in children's' upbringing," she said.
Child welfare group Deutsche Kinderhilfe disagreed, saying
the government had "(pushed) through the legalisation of the
ritual of genital circumcision ... against the advice of
child right campaigners and the medical profession."