Iceland Poised to Ban Circumcision of Boys

Children's rights trump religious rights, advocates say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2018 3:55 AM CST
Iceland Poised to Ban Circumcision of Boys
A man in Fairfax, Calif., holds up a sign against circumcision as state Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Los Angeles speaks outside a medical clinic during a news conference in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The world's oldest parliament will soon be debating Europe's first ban on circumcising male children for non-medical reasons—a tradition campaigners call "male genital mutilation." The bill before Iceland's parliament proposes a six-year prison sentence for anybody removing part or all of a child's sexual organs, the BBC reports. Supporters say circumcising young boys violates their rights, while opponents—including Jewish and Muslim leaders, as well as Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the Catholic Church in the European Union—argue that it violates the religious freedom of the country's small Muslim and Jewish communities, believed to number around 1,500 and 250 people, respectively. The religious leaders say the ban could make Jews and Muslims feel "unwelcome" in Iceland.

The bill—which says boys shouldn't be circumcised for religious or cultural reasons until they're old enough to decide for themselves—was proposed by Silja Dogg Gunnarsdottir of the Progressive Party, the Guardian reports. She says she decided to introduce the bill after realizing the country had banned female genital mutilation without addressing male circumcision. "If we have laws banning circumcision for girls, then we should do so for boys," she says. "We are talking about children's rights, not about freedom of belief. Everyone has the right to believe in what they want, but the rights of children come above the right to belief." Danish doctors recommended in 2016 that nobody under 18 be circumcised, but the country stopped short of a ban. (In Britain, Amazon has stopped selling circumcision training kits.)

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