Is circumcision an immoral ritual?

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Is circumcision an immoral ritual?

The ritual practice of circumcision has become a debated practice in recent years around Europe. Is circumcision an immoral ritual that needs to be banned? 

Is circumcision an immoral ritual?
The ritual practice of circumcision has become a debated practice in recent years around Europe. Those who champion the right to circumcision argue that this should be allowed on the basis of freedom of religion. However, those opposing circumcision argue that non-medical circumcision of infants should be prohibited in the name of freedom from religion. Let us review the situation in a few Nordic countries and their attitudes towards circumcision. 

Denmark: “circumcision should have a minimum age of 18”
In Denmark – as we can see in the graph below – the majority of the population supports a ban on non-medical circumcision. In 2018, 50,000 people signed a petition calling for the ban on circumcision to be implemented by the Danish Parliament and asking for a minimum age of 18 for circumcision to protect “children’s fundamental rights.”

Since August 2020, a committee under the Danish Patient Health Authority has been updating the guidelines for non-medical circumcision. Yet, the Danish Society of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine has already left the committee as they opposed the Authority’s opinion that there is no need for general anaesthesia during circumcision. Many other organisations followed this example and withdrew from the committee.

Finland: “circumcision is a medical assault”
In Finland, the Finnish Ombudsman for Equality argued in 2015 that circumcision of young children without a medical justification is strongly debatable. In 2016 the Finnish supreme court ruled that circumcision of young boys that is not for medical reasons is an assault. The most recent change happened in 2020, when the Finish Parliament banned female genital mutilation. An earlier draft of this law also banned non-medical circumcision. Yet, as a result of the opposition of Islamic and Jewish groups – such as the Central Council of Finnish Jewish Communities, Milah UK, and the European Jewish Congress – the wording of the new law was changed. As of now, the new ruling of the Parliament simply states that the status of circumcision for infants is an issue that needs to be ‘clarified’ in the future. 

Sweden and Norway: “there are no medical benefits of circumcision”
The Swedish Medical association stated in 2019 that there are no medical benefits to circumcision. As a consequence, the association argued that circumcision should be allowed only when the person has reached “age and maturity that he can give informed consent.” 

In 2018, a motion was submitted by the Swedish Democrats party that was in favour of banning circumcision of young infants. In 2019, the Swedish’s Centre Party voted for a ban on non-medical circumcision of infants. The Swedish Left Party also stated their opposition to circumcision before age 18. 

In 2017, the anti-immigrant and libertarian Progress Party (FrP) in Norway voted to ban the non-medical circumcision of boys under the age of 16. They argued that the circumcision caused both mental and physical harm to the child and was against the principles of human rights. 

What is the place of Jews and Muslim in the Nordic Europe Countries?
From this short review, it appears that many groups and political parties in the four Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden are against non-medical infant circumcision. All these countries emphasise the right of autonomy of the child at the expense of the right of freedom of religion of the community and families. Even though none of these governments has yet banned circumcision completely, it appears that this is closer than ever. When this happens, it will be very difficult for Jews and Muslims to live in these places – as they will not be able to perform one of the most fundamental rituals of their religion.

Ghila Amati

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