Jewish male circumcision instruments (wiki commons)
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has condemned male circumcision as a human rights violation.
A report by the Council said male circumcision for religious reasons was "particularly worrisome", with the procedure being "increasingly questioned".
"Even within religious communities, an increasing number of people have started questioning traditional but harmful practices and looking for alternatives," lead author Marlene Rupprecht wrote.
"Having explored this issue in detail during the recent legislative debate in my own country, Germany, I would like to show why circumcision applied to young boys clearly is a human rights violation against children, although it is so widely performed both in the medical and in the religious context."
The report notes that there is some evidence supporting circumcision, such as a reduction on HIV transmission. However, it goes on to highlight the dangers of the practice.
"There is evidence that unprofessional circumcisions may cause infections, organ curvatures, perforated urethra and, finally, additional operations, whilst even wrongly applied bandages can have severe consequences such as necrotic tissue and other irreversible damage. Some of the complications are regularly fatal.
"I wish to conclude that - according to the current state of medical knowledge - the operation is not as innocuous as many used to or continue to believe, but may have serious short-term and long-term consequences for the health and well-being of boys and men.
Dismiss religious freedom
"Although it has been practised for thousands of years, it should therefore be strongly questioned today, both in the medical and the religious context. Alternatives do exist and should be promoted wherever possible: if circumcision seems to be indicated for medical reasons, its necessity should be closely examined on a case-by-case basis; in the religious context, families should be systematically made aware of the risks of the procedure and be provided with full information on the alternatives."
The council debated the report and overwhelmingly determined that non-medical circumcision is "a violation of the physical integrity of children".
It called for all 47 member states to "initiate a public debate, including intercultural and interreligious dialogue, aimed at reaching a large consensus on the rights of children to protection against violations of their physical integrity according to human rights standards".
However, religious groups have questioned the Council's decision to condemn circumcision for faith-based reasons.
Jewish campaign group Milah UK told JTA: "Although the adoption of this report is non-binding and does not represent any direct threat to milah, we are troubled at the readiness of the Parliamentary Assembly to dismiss the points made during the debate about religious freedom."
To contact the editor, e-mail: