Circumcision Indecision in Germany

in Journal of Law, Religion and State
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Male ritual circumcision is one of the most frequently conducted surgical procedures in the world, and constitutes an important aspect of the Jewish and Muslim religions. When in May 2012 a German court in Cologne allegedly “banned” the procedure, legal uncertainty in Germany set in and emotions worldwide ran high against the decision. In December 2012, the German parliament enacted a law explicitly granting parents the right to have their sons circumcised. This article revisits the complex and unique criminological, legal-dogmatic, and constitutional debates and processes that shaped both the earlier court decision and the later legislation. It presents the facts of the case, explains the arguments for and against the legality of the procedure that were raised in the legal debate that preceded and accompanied the court ruling, and analyzes the new law that now regulates the matter.

Circumcision Indecision in Germany

in Journal of Law, Religion and State

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References

  • 11

     See also Fateh-Moghadamsupra n. 8 at 1133.

  • 14

     See also Fateh-Moghadamsupra n. 8 at 1133.

  • 45

     See Fateh-Moghadamsupra n. 44 at 127 who in his section on "Best interests versus substituted judgment" draws a comparison with established English law doctrines that explicitly do not limit the best interest of the child to medical concerns but also include the social-cultural context of the child.

  • 53

     See e.g. Schramm et al.supra n. 44 at 870; Fateh-Moghadam supra n. 44 at 121; Schramm supra n. 44 225; Beulke Dießner supra n. 44 at 342; Brian Valerius "Die Berücksichtigung kultureller Wertvorstellungen im Strafrecht" Juristische Arbeitsblätter 7 (2010); Barbara Rox "Sekulärer Staat und Religiöses Recht: Anmerkungen zu LG Köln Urteil v. 7. 5. 2012 – 151 Ns 169/11" JuristenZeitung 15–16 (2012) 806; also see Schwarz supra n. 44 who also seems to accept the notion. A different opinion was presented by Exner who denied that male circumcision constitutes criminal bodily harm. He deemed the procedure to be only a minor invasion of the integrity of the body and given its widespread global practice considered it to be "socially adequate." Goerlich and Zabel interpreted Section 223 in light of the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom and therefore rejected the criminality of circumcision; see Thomas Exner Sozialadäquanz im Strafrecht Schriften zum Strafrecht 216 (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot 2011); Helmut Goerlich & Benno Zabel "Säkulärer Staat und religiöses Recht: Erwiderung" JuristenZeitung 21 (2012) 1061. Cf. also Fateh-Moghadam supra n. 8 at 1133–1134.

  • 54

     See Holm Putzkesupra n. 50 at 682; Jerouschek supra n. 50 at 317; Herzberg supra n. 50 at 332.

  • 56

     See Holm Putzkesupra n. 50 at 681–682. ("Bei einer Zirkumzision verwendete Werkzeuge sind damit ‘gefährliche’ im Sinne des §224 Abs. 1 Nr. 2 Alt. 2 StGB.").

  • 58

     See 151 Ns 169/11supra n. 8 at 5 with reference to the case law established in bgh njw 1978 1206; NStZ 1987 174.

  • 59

     See Schrammsupra n. 44 224; Fateh-Moghadam supra n. 44 at 134; Schwarz supra n. 44 at 1126.

  • 62

     See Holm Putzkesupra n. 50 at 682–687; Jerouschek supra n. 50 at 317–318. For a description of this position in English and a critical commentary on it see Fateh-Moghadam supra n. 8 at 1135 et seq.

  • 64

     See Holm Putzkesupra n. 50 at 687.

  • 70

     See Holm Putzkesupra n. 50 at 692 709; Herzberg supra n. 51 at 174; Jerouschek supra n. 50 at 319.

  • 72

     See Fateh-Moghadamsupra n. 44 at 141.

  • 74

     See Edward Schrammsupra n. 8 at 140 note 33.

  • 75

     See Fateh-Moghadamsupra n. 44 at 135.

  • 76

     See Valeriussupra n. 53 at 485 note 47 Cf. Beulke & Dießner supra n. 44 at 343.

  • 77

     See Valeriussupra n. 53 at 485.

  • 82

     See Holm Putzkesupra n. 50 at 702.

  • 85

     See Fateh-Moghadamsupra n. 44 at 138.

  • 86

     See Valeriussupra n. 53 at 485.

  • 87

     See Roxsupra n. 53 at 808; Beulke & Dießner supra n. 44 at 345.

  • 88

    At its adoption in 1949the term Basic Law was chosen. Because of the division of Germany into the three allied sectors in West Germany controlled by the Americans the British and the French and the Soviet sector in East Germany the Basic Law would apply only to West Germany and not a unified country therefore the drafters avoided using the German term Verfassung (constitution) to stress the provisional nature of the document. See Theodor Maunz "Präambel" in T. Maunz & G. Dürig (eds.) Grundgesetz-Kommentar vol. 29 72nd ed. (München: C.H. Beck 2014) 29:6. After reunification the Germans retained the term Basic Law "to symbolize the success of the Basic Law in West Germany." See Eberle supra n. 7 at 1 note 1.

  • 92

     See Pieroth & Schlinksupra n. 92 263.

  • 95

     See Jerouscheksupra n. 50 at 318–319.

  • 96

     See Holm Putzkesupra n. 50 at 705.

  • 98

     See Jerouscheksupra n. 50 at 319; Holm Putzke supra n. 50 at 708.

  • 99

     See Pieroth & Schlinksupra n. 92 633–636. Thus Article 6(2) gg is subject to Gesetzesvorbehaltsschranken (reservation of statutory powers) in this case a so called qualifizierter Gesetzesvorbehalt (qualified reservation of statutory power) because state power can intervene into the parental right only in order to protect the care and upbringing of the child. See also ibid. 652.

  • 103

     See e.g. Fateh-Moghadamsupra n. 44 at 131; Beulke & Dießner supra n. 44 at 344; Schramm et al. supra n. 44 at 872; Rox supra n. 53 at 808.

  • 106

     See e.g. Jerouscheksupra n. 50 at 319; Holm Putzke supra n. 50 at 705–706.

  • 107

     See Pieroth & Schlinksupra n. 92 506–508.

  • 115

     See e.g. Jerouscheksupra n. 50 at 319; Holm Putzke supra n. 50 at 705–706.

  • 124

     See Beulke & Dießnersupra n. 44 at 344.

  • 145

     See Stehrsupra n. 30.

  • 155

     See bt-Drucksache 17/11295supra n. 10 at 18; Entwurf eines Gesetzes über den Umfang der Personensorge bei einer Beschneidung des männlichen Kindes supra n. 15 at 4. ("Der Wille des betroffenen Jungen ist sofern er schon gebildet werden kann in die Entscheidung über die Vornahme einer Beschneidung einzubeziehen insbesondere im Hinblick darauf dass der Eingriff später nicht rückgängig gemacht werden kann.").

  • 156

     See bt-Drucksache 17/11295supra n. 10 at 18; Entwurf eines Gesetzes über den Umfang der Personensorge bei einer Beschneidung des männlichen Kindes supra n. 15 at 24 who point out the emphasis the German Ethics Council places on this problem. See Deutscher Ethikrat "Ethikrat empfiehlt rechtliche und fachliche Standards für die Beschneidung."

  • 158

     See bt-Drucksache 17/11295supra n. 10 at 18; Entwurf eines Gesetzes über den Umfang der Personensorge bei einer Beschneidung des männlichen Kindes supra n. 15 at 24.

  • 170

     See e.g. Herzbergsupra n. 168; Putzke "Interview: Den Gesetzgeber hat der Teufel geritten."

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