The German government on Friday announced that it will act swiftly to lift criminal sanctions imposed on circumcision [JURIST news archive]. Spokesperson for Chancellor Angela Merkel [official website, in German], Steffen Seibert, said that without adequate protections for the practice of circumcision, Jewish and Muslim communities would not be able to live in Germany because the practice is so fundamental to the groups. Seibert added that circumcision executed in a responsible manner should be free from any criminal punishments. Various Jewish and Muslim groups, including the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, the European Jewish Parliament [advocacy websites], the European Jewish Association, Germany's Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs [advocacy website, in German] and the Islamic Centre Brussels [advocacy website], have joined to defend circumcision. The issue of circumcision in Germany arose when the Cologne state court [official website, in German] ruled [press release, in German] in June that circumcising young boys based on religious traditions is prohibited [JURIST report] even if the parents consent to the procedure. It reasoned that a child's right to physical integrity is above the freedom of religion and parents' rights. The case involved a doctor who carried out a circumcision on a four-year-old Muslim boy at his parents' request. The operation had some complications and after the state's prosecution was notified of the incident, it brought a lawsuit against the doctor. The court, however, dismissed the claim against the doctor reasoning that he was not aware of the procedure's illegality at the time of circumcision.
Circumcision remains a controversial throughout the world. In October California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that will prevent local governments from banning [JURIST report] male circumcision. The law was written in response to a ballot measure proposed in San Francisco that would have made male circumcision illegal if the recipient was under the age of 18, with perpetrators penalized by a fine of $1,000 or imprisonment.