Child protection NGOs and pediatricians conclude: circumcision law has failed


Child-protection NGOs and Medical Associations conclude:

Circumcision law failed in every aspect

Berlin, 12/12/2013 - One year after foreskin amputations (circumcisions) to boys for any reason have been legalized in Germany, seven Child-protection NGOs and Medical Associations held a press conference in Berlin to voice their concerns regarding the so-called circumcision law, its application and consequences. Their verdict: The law failed in every aspect.

With the §1631d BGB, that had been passed exactly one year ago on Dec.12th, 2012, the German Bundestag legalized foreskin amputations for any reason. A requirement for medically not indicated surgery is its execution according to the "rules of medical science". During the child's first 6 month of age it may also be performed by not medically trained people, if they are appointed by a religious group.

The government aimed at eliminating existing legal uncertainties. From the point of view of MOGiS e.V. - A voice for the Affected, Terre des Femmes, (I)ntact e.V., pro familia Niedersachsen, the Profession Association of Child and Youth doctors, the German Academy for Child and Youth medicine and the German Society for Child Surgery, however, this ambitious plan failed to work out. They draw a negative conclusion of the law's first year.
Christian Bahls, Chairman of MOGiS e.V. - A voice for the Affected, said: "If it comes to the claim the law would satisfy all parties involved, let me assure you, this surely does not hold true for the affected men." He also pointed out that many notable law experts consider the law unconstitutional.
The organizations not only criticise the lack of legal certainty. The very few conditions for a circumcision's legality that made it into the law would often not even be met. "There is no trace of legal certainty for the affected men", Bahls added, "especially regarding a recently dropped lawsuit related to a ritual circumcision, the impression arises that backyard-circumcisions have been carelessly legalized by the lawmakers."

The organizations deem the interests and rights to be not fully recognized or protected by the law, and boys and girls not treated equally. They therefore demanded the cancellation of §1631d BGB and a recognition of children's right to genital self-determination - regardless of gender. The new revision of the patient's rights law with its prohibition of aesthetic-surgical operations on minors is seen as a possible way to bolster up the affected children's rights accordingly.
Christa Müller from (I)ntact e.V. said "The forced male circumcision is, like the female genital mutilation, a violation of the right to bodily integrity. Being a human right, it must apply to boys and girls worldwide without limitations. Neither religious, nor social or cultural views may justify the amputation of a male foreskin, a clitoris or the labia. Legalization of medically not indicated circumcision of little boys creates a backdoor for female genital mutilation." Müller fears that it is only a matter of time until a family will successfully sue for their right to circumcise their daughter on principle of equal treatment of genders.

All organizations also found fault with the fact that critical voices, especially from men negatively affected by their circumcision - as in the debate prior to enactment in 2012 - are still not sufficiently listened to and included in the political process. "We, being the affected, have no rights, not even to compensation or amends", Alexander Bachl, speaker for the working group of men negatively affected by circumcision within MOGiS e.V., deplored. He added: "The affected are being disenfranchised. We can not participate in the decision about the removal of an important body part. Parents may have their sons' foreskins amputated at will". He demanded: "Any circumcision without therapeutic value can only be decided by the person that has to bear the consequences for the rest of his life."

Dr. Ulrich Fegeler, spokesperson of the Profession Association of Child and Youth Doctors (BVKJ), generally argued against circumcision of minors without medical indication. "Circumcisions without therapeutic value may not be performed until after the patient has reached necessary level of ability to agree. Only then it can be ensured that the affected is fully aware of the whole range of consequences. Prerequisite is a thorough education of the juvenile (without the parents being present) about the effects of foreskin removal."

According to Prof. Dr. Manfred Gahr, general secretary of the German Academy for Child and Youth Medicine (DAKJ), all member organizations of the DAKJ reject a not medically founded circumcision. The law hasn't improved the situation for boys of any age, he said. He pointed out problems regarding the possible foreskin-removal by non-medical circumcisers. The younger a child was, the greater were the technical difficulties and the rate of complications (at least 6%). Non-medical circumcisers are not licensed to apply sufficient anaesthetics, neither general nor local anaesthesia. As a result, infant circumcisions in Germany were being performed without sufficient pain relief. "If you imagine an appendix operation on an adult without anaesthesia, you can see how highly problematic this procedure is", he explained. The proclaimed medical benefits brought forward by circumcision advocates were by no means scientifically proven, nor relevant for people in developed countries.

The secretary of pro familia Niedersachsen, Andreas Bergen, called §1631d BGB an "intrusion in the basic right to bodily integrity of male children and juveniles". "We consider an evaluation of this law indispensable - lawmakers must take notice of the consequences their law has", he said.

Irmingard Schewe-Gerigk, chairwomen of Terre des femmes e.V., said that the current legal regulation in Germany is a clear contradiction to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which prompts countries to abolish rites harmful to children. Human rights were universal and would apply to boys and girls equally.

In addition to the debate on traditionally motivated forms of foreskin amputations on boys, representatives of affected men also pointed towards the still abnormally high number of medically justified foreskin removals. Victor Schiering, member of the working group of men negatively affected by circumcision within MOGiS e.V., said "Boys are 'circumcised' for a huge variety of reasons, some also for questionable medical reasons. We must find out why the ratio of boys having their foreskins amputated is so much larger in Germany than, for example, in Scandinavia". Maybe the obsession with movability of the children’s' foreskins was caused by disease mongering a healthy condition, because the knowledge about the natural development of the foreskin till the end of puberty has been lost. "Society has looked away for far too long", he added. Therefore a fund should be established for compensation and help for the affected of all ages.

We kindly request a copy after publication.

Date information:

Second anniversary of genital self-determination on May 7th, 2014 in Cologne, "Worldwide Day of Genital Autonomy" - anniversary of the landmark judgment of the Cologne Regional Court with demonstration and rally. The event will be attended worldwide; rallies are announced before the German consulates in the United States and the German embassy in the UK.

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