An intense debate over circumcision has been raging in Germany since early June when a Cologne court ruled that circumcision of a young boy on religious grounds amounted to grievous bodily harm and therefore illegal. The court found that children have a fundamental right to physical integrity. 

The decision outraged many German Jews and Muslims who questioned their lives and acceptance in Germany. The German Medical Association subsequently told doctors across the country to stop performing the procedure. The Berlin Senate subsequently introduced legislation that would allow boys to be circumcised once both parents have given written permission and shown proof of the “religious motivation and religious necessity of circumcision.” The Central Council of Jews in Germany rejected the proposal, which does not allow traditional Jewish mohels to perform the procedure.

Circumcision is a delicate issue due the religious passions involved, and it could take years before the issue is finally resolved. How does one balance the rights children and of parents. Balancing these two contrasting fundamental rights is complicated. Moreover, male circumcision isn’t the only religious practice based on religion. Polygamy is another practice, as is the prohibition of blood transfusions among Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the compulsory veiling and female circumcision of women in parts of the Islamic world. Why is one practice banned while another allowed.