A judge in a Landes court in Köln has made some big waves recently in religious and national circles here in Germany. The lady judge has handed down a ruling which bans the practice of circumcision, describing it as 'mutilation' under legislation which actually deals with 'causing bodily harm.' This has huge ramifications for the Jewish community, who, by religious laws going back at least 4,000 years, circumcise all male children eight days after birth. It impacts on the Muslim community as well, because they circumcise all boys at the age of 6 years. I have no doubt whatsoever that it impacts a wide range of other people with cultural, religious or health reasons for this practice.
The Judge has made her stand, primarily she sees all forms of circumcision as 'bodily harm,' and I would certainly agree with her when it comes to the African Muslim practice of mutilating girls, which is not at all the same thing as circumcising a boy. She has certainly provoked a religious backlash and I must admit there is a certain irony to seeing the Jewish and Muslim Leaders arguing jointly that this is an unwarranted interference in their religious rights.
As you would expect, the Secularists want it rigidly enforced as a way of imposing restrictions on religious practice in all forms and beliefs, and there is a great deal of noise about the whole thing in the media, and political circles. Even the legal community seems divided on it.
Circumcision is practiced in many societies, not just the Jewish and Muslim ones. Most African tribes have a 'rite of passage' in which circumcision of boys plays a large part. It is no accident that it is so widely practiced in areas where the climate is hot, personal hygiene often difficult and transmission of infection made far more likely by the presence of this small piece of the anatomy. Like the vermiform appendix it is a hang-over from our very early ancestors.
Medical studies have identified in recent years that circumcised males are far less likely to transfer certain infective agents to their partners than uncircumcised males. Woman with a circumcised partner are less likely to suffer from cervical cancer or risk sterility through infection. Men are less likely to suffer from fungal infections, simply because there is no convenient place for an infection to develop. No, circumcision won't prevent AIDS/HIV, but it does reduce the risk of a whole range of other infections.
Many of these 'religious' practices have their origins in perfectly sound medical reasoning. Somewhere down the line someone in the distant past realised that circumcision made hygiene in a hot climate a lot easier. Possibly later it found its way into religious observance as a way of making sure it was done. In other societies it became a cultural thing. Certainly all the Bantu tribes Josephus mentioned yesterday practice it, and that is nothing to do with 'religion.'
No, I do believe the lady Judge has allowed her personal opinion to lead her into an area she should have stayed away from. Now she's created a legal minefield, and the politicians are going to have to walk into it to try and find a solution. It's going to be very interesting and I suspect more than a few political careers could be wrecked on it.