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Possible circumcision ban sparks religious backlash

Voices calling for Denmark to follow Germany's lead cite the health risks and sexual problems caused by the practice


Thou shalt not circumcise? (Photo: Colourbox)

July 20, 2012
10:24

by


Danish Muslims and Jews are concerned that Denmark may ban male circumcision after a German court last week decided that the practice amounts to violence against male children and should not be performed until boys are old enough to decide on their own whether to have the operation performed.

“The ritual is very important to Islam,” Imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “It is not mandatory, but it is a very strong tradition. A ban would be taken very seriously.”

In Judaism, boys must be circumcised when they are eight days old, and leaders of the Jewish community in Denmark see the proposal a rejection of their culture.

“A ban on circumcision is equivalent to saying to those that have practiced Judaism in Denmark for 400 years that they may as well leave,” rabbi Bent Lexner told Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper.

Lexner said he has circumcised about 1,000 boys and that none of them have experienced complications. 

New figures from Patientforsikringen, a patient insurance group, revealed however that between 1996 and 2012 there were 65 claims of injuries related to male circumcision.

Even though the surgery is not complicated, Jørgen Thorup, a professor of paediatric surgery at Rigshospitalet, said it still carries some significant risks.

“The most common complications are bleeding, infection and excessive cutting,” Thorup told Jyllands-Posten.“In the most serious cases, the boys lose part of their penis.”

Parliament is divided on the question, with most parties calling for a debate of the health, social and legal consequences of a ban before any decisions are made.

“We advocate a ban on circumcision,” Jørgen Arbo-Bæhr (Enhedslisten), said. “People should decide for themselves whether or not they want to be circumcised.”

Imam Pedersen said that even though the debate about circumcision comes up every few years only to die down again relatively quickly, he expected the German court decision to give new impetus to calls for a ban.

In the midst of the religious debate surrounding the practice, a new study found that circumcision can have a negative effect on the estimated five percent of Danish men who are circumcised.

According to a study released by the Statens Serum Institut, these men may have difficulty achieving orgasm and satisfying their partners.

Morten Frisch, who led the study, said it also showed that women who had sex with circumcised men reported greater problems with pain during intercourse.



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