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German court bans circumcision as 'assault' on children

JEWISH and Muslim groups in Germany condemned a court ruling yesterday that deemed circumcision to be equivalent to grievous bodily harm.

The court in Cologne declared that the procedure violated a child's "fundamental right to bodily integrity". Religious groups claimed the ruling could lead to "circumcision tourism".

The court said the right of the child outweighed that of parents in what legal experts said could be a landmark case.

The ruling said: "The religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their child would not be unacceptably compromised if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised.

"The body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision. This change contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs."

The case concerned a four-year-old Muslim boy who was circumcised at the request of his parents but was later taken to hospital with bleeding.

The doctor was charged and tried for grievous bodily harm but was acquitted on the grounds he had parental consent.

The Cologne ruling is not binding but legal experts said it appeared to clarify a grey area. Jewish and Muslim groups criticised the decision.

"Circumcision is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practised worldwide for centuries. This religious right is respected in every country in the world," said Dieter Graumann, the head of the Central Committee of Jews. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

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