The German Circumcision Controversy — And Beyond
University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law Online (2017).
35 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2017
Date Written: April 6, 2017
This paper examines continuing debate over non-therapeutic circumcision. The period 2012-2104 saw controversy over ritual circumcisions in Germany, which was precipitated by a court decision characterizing such a circumcision as a criminal offense. The decision was legislatively overruled in late 2012, though public comment persisted. In an article published in 2015, I argued that secularization, cultural norms, and anti-minority sentiment were all factors in the legal, political and religious controversy.
Melanie Adrian, Debra DeLaet, Brian D. Earp and Robert Darby have responded to my article in an online symposium organized and published by the University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law in April 2017. In reply, I argue that anti-minority sentiment does not seem to have pride of place over the other factors (Adrian). I also argue that sex and gender are not a fourth independent factor in the German controversy, but rather are already embedded in German cultural norms (DeLaet).
Earp and Darby shed light on psychosexual harm from non-therapeutic circumcision, but I suggest that it is difficult to establish how many, or what percentage of, boys and men experience such harm. Their proposal for a classification of male genital cutting (MGC), which is an enterprise similar to the WHO campaign against female genital cutting (FGC), is intriguing but would be aided by a more careful investigation into the nature of the foreskin. Earp and Darby do, however, further the case that non-therapeutic circumcision should not be dismissed as harmless or as consistent with the rights of male minors.
Keywords: bodily integrity, harm, psychosocial harm, medical complications, children's rights, circumcision, ritual circumcision, family law, female genital cutting, FGC, Islamic practices, Jewish practices, male genital cutting, MGC,male minors, Convention on the Rights of the Child
JEL Classification: C99, D19, D62, D81, I12, I19, K19, K36, Z12, Z18, Z19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation