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Iceland's proposed ban on male circumcision upsets Jews, Muslims

A proposed bill to ban non-medically required male circumcision on babies and children in Iceland is receiving backla...

Posted: Feb. 20, 2018 1:28 PM
Updated: Feb. 20, 2018 1:28 PM

A proposed bill to ban non-medically required male circumcision on babies and children in Iceland is receiving backlash from religious communities.

"Those procedures are unnecessary, done without their informed consent, non-reversible and can cause all kinds of severe complications, disfigurations and even death," said Icelandic Progressive Party MP Silja D-gg Gunnarsdottir.

She said a child should be old enough to give "informed consent" for the procedure and defended the proposed ban as being about protecting children's rights, adding that it would "not go against the religious right of their parents."

The European Jewish Congress (EJC), condemned the bill saying the ban would be an "effective deterrent" that would "guarantee that no Jewish community will be established" in the country.

"Iceland would be the only country to ban one of the most central, if not the most central rite in the Jewish tradition in modern times," the EJC statement said, adding that this would "attack Judaism in a way that concerns Jews all over the world."

One in three men globally are estimated to be circumcised, with the majority for religious and cultural reasons.

If the ban were to come into effect it would be a "violation to the right of religious freedom," according to Imam Ahmad Seddeeq of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Iceland, who estimates the country's Muslim community to have "at least" 2,500 members.

"People who believe in something try to do it as long as it is legal, if it's not legal here they will do it in [their] home countries or other countries," Seddeeq told CNN.

A 2012 review by the American academy of pediatrics found the health benefits of circumcision to outweigh the risks, though not great enough to recommend the procedure become routine.

"The health benefits of circumcision include lower risks of acquiring HIV, genital herpes, human papilloma virus and syphilis. Circumcision also lowers the risk of penile cancer over a lifetime; reduces the risk of cervical cancer in sexual partners, and lowers the risk of urinary tract infections in the first year of life," the group said at the time of the review.

However, the study also found the procedure poses risks such as "bleeding and swelling."

In 2012, a judge in Cologne, Germany made a similar ruling that religious circumcision amounted to bodily harm against a child who has no say in the matter. The decision came in a case involving a 4-year-old boy who experienced complications following the practice. The judge ruled that a child's right to physical integrity outweighed the desire of his parents to have him circumcised for religious reasons.

The new bill in Iceland - where female circumcision was banned by law in 2005 - was put forward by representatives from four of Iceland's political parties arguing that while many children do not have any complications, some do and "one is too many if the procedure is unnecessary," said Gunnarsdottir.

It is "uncertain" when discussions on the bill about boys will conclude and what the outcome of the vote will be, she said.

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