Canada: Circumcision Opponents Rejoice Over German Ruling

After a German court ruled on June 26 to ban circumcision, debate about the practice continued in Canada and elsewhere. Judges in Cologne, Germany, ruled that the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents" to have their son circumcised.

The Coordinating Council of Muslims in Germany denounced the ruling as a "big blow against integration." In the United States, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles condemned the German ruling as "an attack on one of the fundamental principles of Judaism" and urged legislation in Germany to ensure the practice continues.

The World Health Organization supports circumcision to help prevent the spread of HIV. According to a WHO statement, "There is compelling evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60 percent." Also, "Three randomized controlled trials have shown that male circumcision provided by well-trained health professionals in properly equipped settings is safe."

In Montreal, a conference was held Wednesday by "intactivists" (a play on the words "intact" genitalia and "activist"). "We absolutely agree with the German court's ruling that a boy's right to keep all of his body parts and keep his physical integrity takes precedence over the religious beliefs of his parents, and we look forward to Canada passing a similar law," said Glen Callender, founder of the Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project, who helped organize the conference.

In a 2009 position paper, the Canadian Pediatric Society concluded that "the over-all evidence of the benefits and harms of circumcision is so evenly balanced that it does not support recommending circumcision as a routine procedure for newborns."

Callender emphasized that intactivists are not against adult males choosing to undergo circumcision.