Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cologne and the Prohibition of Circumcision

There has been a recent court ruling in Cologne, Germany prohibiting circumcision in its jurisdiction.  The  court ruled that the procedure violated a child's fundamental right to be protected from bodily harm.  This, as expected, has caused an uproar among the Jewish and Muslim populations in Germany, and some have even considered this judicial decision to carry anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim overtones, and to have caused doubts, in general, about religious tolerance in Germany.

Let's assume, for this discussion, that there are no religious or ethnic traditions which call for circumcision, and that circumcision is a procedure with which the general public is not familiar.  You read about a mother who, because of instructions received in a dream, went ahead and circumcised her week old baby boy.  Another mother, having a similar epiphany, circumcised her baby girl.  A third mother, also hearing voices, pierced her baby's nasal septum in order to insert a ring.  And yet one more mother, following an inspirational commandment, permanently tatooed a large star on her infant's buttocks.  All the mothers were competent to perform these procedures and did a perfect job in each case.  No infant suffered complications, and none are expected in the future.

What would your reaction be?  Does a mother have the parental right to have these purely elective procedures carried out on her infant?     Should these procedures be construed as "bodily harm," or are they non-harmful, (though painful) and therefore acceptable.  Is it also not possible that when the infant reaches maturity, resentment at having been subjected to the procedure may develop?  Should the parent be required to seek counseling and wait 24-48 hours before being permitted to proceed (as is the case with elective abortion in some states.)

However, when we consider religious or ethnic tradition as the rationale for these "alterations" to an infant's body, the procedures may take on a wholly different appearance.  What may have been considered unacceptable now achieves acceptability.  After all, they are basically "harmless."  What sounds like a crazy, if not an actually cruel, procedure becomes justifiable under those circumstances.  So we continue the tradition.  ......But should we?

No comments: