Cologne circumcision court judgment

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The so-called Cologne circumcision court judgment means a judgment[1] issued by the regional court of Cologne (Germany) on May 07, 2012 in the second instance. The court considered circumcision (Beschneidung) a bodily injury, which will not be justified by a religious motivation and the desire of the parents and is not in the best interests of the child. The decision was taken in view of the fundamental rights provided by the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland).

German Basic Law

The German Basic Law was drafted in 1948 under the oversight of the Allied Powers to serve as an interim constitution until such time as Germany was reunified. The authors of the Basic Law sought to ensure that a potential dictator would never again be able to come to power in the country, so the authors elevated human rights and human dignity to core values protected by the Basic Law. The Basic Law was approved in Bonn on 8 May 1949, approved by the Allied Powers on 12 May, and went into effect on 23 May 1949.

The first title of the Basic Law serves as a bill of rights. It has nineteen articles that enumerate various fundamental human rights. Article 2(2) provides:

Every person shall have the right to life and physical integrity.

The Cologne case

Underlaying the following case: On November 4, 2010 a Muslim doctor circumcised an at the time four years old boy of Muslim parents at their request on the rules of medical art in his practice. Strong haemorrhage resulted in that the mother brought the boy on November 6, 2010, in the University Hospital of Cologne, where the bleeding could be stopped. The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that the treatment after the circumcision was carried out "in general anesthesia". The boy had come for several days in a children's ward. Three dressing changes have also taken place in anesthesia. The doctor's letter also states the exposed penis surface and the glans were "uneven, corroded and fibrinous". The boy had been for ten days in clinical treatment over all.[2]

Although the offense of assault was found, the doctor was acquitted due to lack of case law on the subject of the present circumcision, because he had acted in an unavoidable mistake and therefore without guilt (§ 17 sentence 1 Criminal Code).

Since subsequent cases of circumcision would be no longer protected by 'unavoidable mistake' on the basis of this judgment, the judgment attracted more attention and initiated a change of direction in the legal opinion on the subject Circumcision of Boys in Germany.

The Cologne Regional Court (Landgericht Köln) mainly related to earlier publications[3] of Holm Putzke on the topic and found that neither the parental authority nor the religious freedom of parents would be sufficient grounds to justify the irreversible circumcision of genitals.

"Anyway, Article 2 paragraph 2 sentence 1 GG (Basic Law) is an intrinsic constitutional limit for the fundamental rights of parents. On balancing the affected fundamental rights, the principle of proportionality has to be observed. Circumcision for religious education is a violation of the physical integrity and, if it is required at all, in any case inappropriate. This follows from the classification of § 1631 subsection 2 sentence 1 BGB (Civil Law Code). Also, the body of the child is changed permanently and irreparably by circumcision. This change is against the interest of the child to be able to decide himself about his religious affiliation later.

Vice versa, the education right of parents is not unreasonably impaired if they are to be seen whether the boy decides later when he is mature, himself for the circumcision as a visible sign of belonging to Islam."[4]

The Cologne circumcision court judgment was the catalyst of the so far most violent and longest Circumcision Debate in Germany. Especially religion representatives of the cutting religions put the policy under pressure to prevent as soon as possible in legal ways, that this judgment would endure universal. After today's state of knowledge, the public debate was sparked especially by statements from the European Rabbis Conference in July 2012. While the judgment had been related to a boy with Muslim parents, the Muslims in Germany did neither at the beginning nor in the course of the debate argue with such harsh accusations like the Jewish religious leaders did. The Cologne circumcision court judgment has since been repeatedly cited internationally as a change of direction, whenever circumcision proponents, intactivists and lawyers discuss about circumcision.

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