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Thursday, August 28, 2014

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Circumcision ban introduced in Sweden

Tags: International
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Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt

STOCKHOLM — A motion to ban the non-medical circumcision of males younger than 18 has been presented to the Swedish parliament.

Two lawmakers from the rightist Sweden Democrats party, noting that female genital mutilation is illegal in Sweden, submitted the motion to the Riksdag on Sept. 24. A vote on it has not been set.

Bjorn Soder and Per Ramhorn wrote in the measure that “boys should have the same right to avoid both complications of reduced sensitivity in the genitals, painful erections, increased risk of kidney damage and psychological distress by permanent removal, and the tremendous violation of privacy that circumcision actually means.”

The motion proposes to scrap legislation from 2001 that says circumcision of newborns is permissible if it is performed by a “licensed professional.”

Jewish ritual circumcisers, or mohelim, in Sweden receive their licenses from the country’s health board, but a nurse or doctor must still be present when they perform the procedure.

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party was established in 1988 but only made it into parliament following unprecedented gains in the 2010 elections, when it garnered 5.7 per cent of the votes, or 20 seats out of 349 in Sweden’s parliament. The opposition party is the sixth-largest faction in the Riksdag.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the European Conference of Rabbis, said the proposal “betrays a dangerous ignorance of what is involved in the practice of milah as compared with the abhorrent practice of female genital mutilation.”

The motion’s authors “seem to have overlooked the fact that if circumcision were to be banned, that would itself represent the most serious violation of human rights in recent memory,” he added in a statement.

Ritual circumcision of underage boys increasingly has come under attack in Scandinavia, both by left-wing secularists as well as right-wingers who fear the influence of immigration from Muslim countries.

The opposition follows a ruling last year by a German court in Cologne that ritual circumcision amounted to a criminal act. The ruling was overturned but triggered temporary bans in Austria and Switzerland.

Sweden has about 20,000 Jews and 500,000 Muslims, according to a U.S. State Department report from 2011.

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