A German court has said that a child’s right to physical integrity trumps religious and parental rights in a case involving a doctor who carried out a circumcision on a four year-old that led to medical complications.

The decision, which is not binding, has caused ‘outrage’ amongst religious groups.

By the way, the decision – since the BBC fails yet again to mention anyone other than the religious lobby – has also been the cause of jubilation amongst children’s rights defenders and people generally concerned with child welfare.

A Jewish organisation has said the decision ‘attacks’ ‘religious freedom’ and the ‘right of religious communities to self-determination’.

But it’s the child that must take precedence – and for once, he has.

There is some sanity after all.

As an aside, but actually central to all this, is the excruciating pain the four year old must has gone through for his parents’ ‘religious freedom’.

It makes me sick to my stomach…

Female Genital Mutilation is illegal; so should male circumcision.  End of.



  1. @ OP

    …since the BBC fails yet again to mention anyone other than the religious lobby

    Oh good. I am not the only one to notice this shift in the Beeb. (*cough* catholic Blair?*cough*) Their whole fawning attitude towards the pope a while back was quite sordid.

  2. Bravo, Deutschland. Bravo, Maryam.

    Being a Jew, this can be a touchy subject, but barbarism is barbarism, and there are few things more barbaric than cutting off part of a child’s body (excepting acute medical need).

    Of course idiots come have to have their non sequitur harm debate. Either you believe in gender equality or you do not. And then you either believe in a right to bodily autonomy or not, regardless of religion or culture.

  3. Pleased to see your article Maryam and the comments from all those in agreement with you. I am disgusted and appalled that my parents felt it was their right to let me be circumcised as an infant. This mutilation of my body has inflicted lifelong impairment to my quality of life and I shall never forgive them for it.

    1. Upon the birth of their first male child, my daughter and her husband came to me and asked my opinion.

      I told them under no circumstances should they allow their children to be so mutilated. They took my advice and all of their male children are untouched.

      I am so glad to have been of such value to my grandchildren. If I never have another opportunity, that one chance was of immeasurable value, in my opinion.

  4. How odd. What on earth makes them think they have a right to self-determination?

    They don’t have that right, not when they try to “self-determine” harm to children, other people and anything illegal.

  5. I hope they make this stick.

    My ancestors came to America from Germany (and elsewhere) looking for a better life. How weird is it that their descendant would be so tempted to go back in search of the same thing?

  6. I fear that this decision will be over-ruled either by higher courts or by parliament. Germany is sensitive, I think, to accusations of anti-semitism, with some reason.

    However, that is not the point.

    The point is that there must be limitations on religious freedom, else human sacrifice would get a religious exception.

    Given that there must be limits, then where should they lie?

    It’s a question to which there can be no definitive limit point, only shades of grey.

    My view is that they should extend to adults undergoing mutilation for religious reasons if they choose, but not as far as making irreparable changes to the body of a child, male or female.

    I don’t think there is any doubt that in the majority of cases female circumcision is far more extreme, though cases od deaths and amputations do occur when make circumcision is botched.

    But in both cases the principle remains. It is the child’s body, and except for medical reasons it should be inviolable, until the child becomes adult.

    David B

  7. If a person owns a home, they are free (within reason) to make permanent modifications. If a person owns a car, they are free (within reason) to make permanent modifications. If a person owns a piece of clothing, they are free (regardless of reason) to make permanent modifications.

    If a person is renting an apartment, or a car, or a ball gown, they are NOT permitted to make permanent modifications.

    The ruling that the courts need to make, and which laws need to enshrine and enforce, is that parents have a custodial relationship with their children, not an possessive relationship. Parents can — they must — do what is necessary to save the life of a child in their care, but should not be allowed to make permanent modifications as if the child were a house or car or garment they owned.

  8. Win some, loose others.

    The ordeal of a 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped and raped repeatedly for three days has infuriated Jordanians, especially when her attacker agreed to marry her to avoid going to jail.

    In conservative societies like Jordan, rapists can walk free thanks to penal code Article 308, known as the “rape-law.”

    In April, the unidentified girl was shopping in the northern city of Zarqa when a 19-year-old man kidnapped her, took her to the desert where he had a pitched a tent and raped her for three consecutive days, judicial sources said.

    Police found the girl during a routine patrol drove her back to her family home and arrested the man.


    Within days news emerged that the boy had agreed to marry the girl, while all charges against him have been dropped.

  9. Somewhat dumbfounded by this dumb statement:


    Women’s rights groups and social policy makers also condemned the decision, but for the reason that it would have the effect of putting male and female circumcision on the same footing, when they were “in no way comparable”, said Katrin Altpeter, social minister in the state of Baden-Württemberg. Female circumcision she said, was a far more drastic act.

    1. It’s not dumb. It’s an anatomical fact.

      Male circumcision has its issues, but it’s a bit of a wash for men. There isn’t any loss of sensitivity, for instance as the glans is still intact. The foreskin simply doesn’t have a ton of nerves in it (it has some, obviously, but it is nowhere near as sensitive as the glans).

      If you wanted an equivalent (anatomically) circumcision between men and women, it would be removing the “head” of the penis entirely. That would pretty much remove a man’s ability to have an erection. (Maybe not completely, you’d have to ask a urologist, but it would certainly curtail things a lot).

      Female genital cutting removes the clitoris in most cases, which pretty much destroys female sexual response. The two are very different in their consequences and complications. In the US, for example, any man over 40 is likely to be circumcised, as it was common practice on male newborns for a couple of decades. It was not for religious reasons at all, but hygiene. (I’m not saying that was a good reason — these days in the US they only circumcise boys whose parents specifically ask for it).

      Also, um, a lot of mohels and docs that do it use local anaesthetic. That isn’t true for FGM.

      So no, they aren’t the same, for the same reason getting your ears pierced and getting one cut off isn’t the same.

      1. No, they are not “the same”, but that’s not the point. Theft and murder aren’t “the same”, yet we make both illegal (although with differing penalties). The idea that this is a zero-sum game, whereby acknowledging that male circumcision is wrong is seen as somehow implying that female circumcision is no longer regarded as being as wrong as it previously was, is absurd. Yes, FGM is far more serious, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t acknowledge that (involuntary, non-medically-indicated) male circumcision is also wrong. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

        I think what Bill is calling “dumb” here is the fact that “Women’s rights groups and social policy makers … condemned the decision … for the reason that it would have the effect of putting male and female circumcision on the same footing”, and not the claim that “Female circumcision [is] a far more drastic act.”

        1. Absolutely, “for the reason that it would have the effect of putting male and female circumcision on the same footing” is not only absurd and false a statement to make, it serves to provide the theists with more voices of dissent on an issue that is not one of ‘who has it worst’ but is, instead, about theist parents believing they have a right to inflict archaic ritualistic mutilation on their sons.

          Male circumcision has its issues, but it’s a bit of a wash for men.

          This is not about men, this is about boys who don’t get a say in the decision to permanently alter their genitals.

        2. “The idea that this is a zero-sum game, whereby acknowledging that male circumcision is wrong is seen as somehow implying that female circumcision is no longer regarded as being as wrong as it previously was, is absurd.”


      2. There isn’t any loss of sensitivity, for instance as the glans is still intact.

        One small objection. It’s been a while since I’ve read any literature on circumcision, but I’m pretty sure there is some loss of sensitivity over the years because the circumcised glans constantly rubs against clothing, whereas in an uncircumcised penis the glans would be protected by the foreskin. I don’t think it’s a very large loss, though.

        1. Wrong.

          I was circumcised at 17 – at the advice of a urologist, who claimed that it would end the nagging kidney infections I’d been plagued with.

          Point being, yes, it significantly reduces sensitivity. For WEEKS, I couldn’t stand to allow clothing to touch the glans of my penis it hurt so badly. A gradual program of allowing such touching reduced that sensitivity to where it is now, but that literally took months and months.

          The foreskin is intimately involved in the male experience of intercourse, and any reduction of the glans’ sensitivity is a tremendous reduction in pleasure.

          Take it from someone with direct experience.

          1. Ouch. As you underwent it at 17, you were old enough to be aware of and compare the changes in sensitivity. I stand corrected. I’m glad I happened to be born in a family where it wasn’t practiced.

      3. A few things, Jesse. Firstly, most recent research shows your claims about the glans are misplaced: the most sexually innervated areas on the male penis are located in the foreskin. What is called the ‘ridged band’, just inside the opening of the foreskin, has the most densely concentrated area of Meisner corpuscles which are key to sexual response. The glans penis, by comparison, only registers heat and pressure sensations whereas the foreskin responds to these AND with movement. For example, try running your finger along the top of your hand. Notice how it feels. Then run your finger along the palm of your hand. You can begin to understand the difference in degrees of sensation. We have similar fine-touch receptors in our lips, fingertips and for men in our foreskins. Just how much circumcision disrupts sexual functioning is serious. I wouldn’t have space to elaborate here. But try telling the mother in north London whose son died this past week from a circumcision gone wrong that ‘its a wash’. And he won’t be the only child to die this year from non-therapeutic genital cutting. However,
        All talk of ‘comparison’ between male and female anatomy is truly secondary to the core, humanitarian principle that is that this is an issue overwhelmingly enacted against INFANTS and CHILDREN. One thing ‘Intactivists’ have learned over the years is how quickly the argument gets put into terms that implies an informed, consenting adult freely opts for this. This is an issue about bodily autonomy as a human right for children as well. This is about the limitation of religious rights when it harms others. This is about the right to choose your religion-if you so wish- and not to have a religious mutilation forced on you whithout your consent.
        The psycho-sexual and neurological research in this area is under-developed but is expanding. Already we know that traumatising an infant with this level of pain affects the normal develpment of the growing brain.
        And yes, men do complain of their childhood mutilation and that includes Jews, Muslims and the rest who had misguided medical treatment. You just have to look for it and take it seriously.
        Lastly, this is not just a ‘menz’ issue. It’s a feminist issue too. Any harm inflicted on boys’ sexuality will potentially affect how they share their sexuality with the future women in their life. Why gamble with that? Do women want emotionally responsive partners in bed? Why risk that? Is it better for women to have male partners that are genitally intact: more sexually responsive, the way nature intended, with more movable skin and less chafing? It’s a no-brainer.
        I’m glad this human rights topic is seeing the light of day more and more among freethinkers, secularists and sceptics. This is one community that searches for truth and reason. This issue needs so much more of that.
        Thanks, Maryam.

      4. Jesse, I am not saying FGM and male circumcision are the same. But I think male circumcision should also be banned. Just because FGM is so vile, doesn’t mean that you cannot also speak out against male circumcision. I’ve been opposed to FGM for decades now and remember arguing with ‘women’s rights campaigners’ in the early 90s who kept defending FGM as a cultural practice and asking that we call it female circumcision. Nonetheless, can you also not understand why circumcising boy children is wrong, and also show empathy for the male child who is cut for religion’s sake?

    2. Part of the confusion comes there being much greater variance in what is called “circumcision” in females than there is in males.

      With males, “circumcision” is limited exclusively to the surgical removal of the foreskin.

      With females, “circumcision” covers a very broad range of procedures, ranging from the surgical removal of the clitoral hood (which is the anatomical analog of the male foreskin) to the amputation of the clitoris (in males, such a procedure would involve amputating the entire penis.)

      The fact is that the removal of the clitoral hood without consent is banned in Germany and many other countries. Here, at long last, is a court that has given males that same protection for the equivalent procedure. How can this possibly be wrong?

    3. Eh I think they are right on the issue of lasting damage the practices cause. However I think that they are on the same footing when it comes to issues of body autonomy which I also find important.

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