(Hey, guys, today is National HIV Testing Day! If you’re sexually active outside of a long-term relationship that you’re certain is monogamous, you should get tested for STIs regularly. If you’re in the US, you can find a testing site here. Nagging over.)
A German court has declared that penile circumcision for religious reasons is bodily harm and conflicts with the interests of the child later on to decide what religion they would like to participate in. This ruling is not binding, which means it has no effect on actual circumcisions performed on men, but may be used as precedent in the future.
I have to say, I’m uncomfortable with making religious male circumcision outright illegal. (I have similar discomfort with making illegal religiously-motivated female circumcision that causes an equally small amount of actual harm. (The vast majority of female circumcision does not fall into this category, instead falling in the category “horrific human rights violation.”)) People take their religions very seriously; many people will be willing to have circumcisions performed on their babies, perhaps in unsafe conditions, in order to satisfy their religious demands. In Germany, almost all circumcisions performed are performed for religious reasons, not for the cultural reasons that most circumcisions are performed in America. Therefore, reducing the rate of circumcision in Germany would involve the religion factor a lot more than it does in the United States, and actually forbidding it would be very concerning.
ETA: For the commenters/Men’s Rights Redditors who are unable to read! I DO NOT LIKE CIRCUMCISION. I WISH IT WOULD GO AWAY FOREVER. I AM UNCOMFORTABLE WITH MAKING RELIGIOUS CIRCUMCISION ILLEGAL AS A HARM REDUCTION THING BECAUSE IF IT IS ILLEGAL PEOPLE WILL PERFORM ILLEGAL CIRCUMCISIONS ON THEIR BABIES, PERHAPS IN UNSAFE CONDITIONS.
However, since this circumcision ruling is nonbinding, I have to hail it as a step forward. People should not make permanent changes to their children’s genitals for no health reason; if the children want to be circumcised, they may do so as adults. After all, what if they don’t want to be members of the religion? What if they’d prefer to keep their genitals unaltered, all things considered? Bodily autonomy is incredibly important; the right to control one’s own body is fundamental.
Ideally, I think, religions that have penile circumcision as a ritual would change and have only a symbolic ceremony with the infant. When the child gets older, they can decide for themselves whether they want to be circumcised in accordance with the religion’s dictates. (Some rabbis, mostly Reform, already perform a brit shalom, a naming ceremony that doesn’t involve circumcision.) After all, religions have changed in accordance with social mores for thousands of years– Christians no longer require that women’s heads be covered in church, the Mormons allow black men to be priests, and nearly all religions condemn slavery. The decline of circumcision would simply have to be another one they’d become accustomed to.