A German court has ruled on Tuesday that parents cannot have their sons circumcised on religious grounds in a move which has angered Muslim and Jewish groups in the country.
The court in Cologne decided that a legal guardian’s authority over a child does not allow them to subject them to the procedure, which the court called minor bodily harm, reports The Financial Times Deutschland.
The regional court ruled that the “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents.”
“The religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their child would not be unacceptably compromised, if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised,” the court added.
The court was considering a case against a Muslim doctor, who performed circumcision on a four-year-old boy at his parents’ request. Two days after the procedure bleeding started, after which the boy had to be taken to hospital.
German authorities learned about the incident and launched a criminal investigation against the doctor. The initial court trial ruled that there was no violation of the law, but the prosecutor’s office took the case to the Cologne district court.
“The body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision,” the court said. “This change contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs.”
The decision sets a precedent, which may affect medical practice across the country.
Thousands of young boys are circumcised every year in Germany, especially in the country’s large Jewish and Muslim communities.
The court specified that circumcision was not illegal if carried out for medical reasons.