Germany's Circumcision Indecision: Anti-Semitism or Legalism?

Posted: 1 Jul 2013 Last revised: 14 Nov 2013

See all articles by Hendrik Pekárek

Hendrik Pekárek

Humboldt University of Berlin - Faculty of Law

Date Written: March 30, 2013


Male ritual circumcision is one of the most frequently conducted surgical procedures in the world and constitutes an important aspect of the Jewish and Muslim religion. Thus, when in May 2012 a German court in Cologne allegedly ‘banned’ the procedure, legal uncertainty in Germany set in and emotions worldwide ran high against the decision. In December 2012, the German parliament enacted a law explicitly granting parents the right to have their sons circumcised. This article revisits the complex and unique criminological, legal, dogmatic and constitutional debates and processes that shaped both the earlier court decision and the later legislation. It presents the actual case facts, explains the arguments pro and contra the procedure’s legality brought forward in the legal debate that preceded the court’s ruling, and then analyses the new law that will regulate the matter in the future.

Keywords: Constitutional Law, Comparative Law, Criminal Law, Medical Law, Circumcision

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Pekárek, Hendrik, Germany's Circumcision Indecision: Anti-Semitism or Legalism? (March 30, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Hendrik Pekárek (Contact Author)

Humboldt University of Berlin - Faculty of Law ( email )

Unter den Linden 9
Berlin, 10099

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