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Germany minister: religious circumcision legal in Berlin

A German state official clarified [press release, in German] Wednesday that circumcision [JURIST news archive] for religious reasons is legal in Berlin. State justice minister Thomas Heilmann [official profile, in German] stated that circumcision would be legal if (1) parents consent to such procedure in writing after they were informed of the associated risks; (2) parents are able to present the religious reason and need for such procedure; and (3) the procedure is performed according to the acknowledged medical standard. The announcement came after a Jewish hospital in Berlin asked the justice minister to clarify the legality surrounding the circumcision procedure. The inquiry was in response to the June ruling by the Cologne state court [official website, in German] that circumcising young boys based on religious traditions is prohibited [JURIST report] even if the parents consent to the procedure. It addressed the issue of whether to criminalize the circumcision of Muslim and Jewish children and reasoned that a child's right to physical integrity is above the freedom of religion and parents' rights.

In July, responding to the controversial decision by the Cologne state court, the German government announced [JURIST report] that it will act swiftly to lift criminal sanctions imposed on circumcision. 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.

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