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World Jewish Congress protests calls by Swedish and Danish physicians to ban religious circumcision

Written by Maud Swinnen
  
Friday, 31 January 2014 15:30
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Swedish Minister for Integration, Erik Ullenhag, said existing rules that allow for religious circumcision would not be changed.


NEW YORK/STOCKHOLM/ (EJP)---The World Jewish Congress has strongly protested calls by Swedish and Danish medical associations for a ban on religious male circumcision.

In Sweden, the recommendation came in a resolution unanimously adopted last week by the ethics council of the Sweden Medical Association — a union whose members constitute 85 percent of the country’s physicians, according to Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

It recommended setting 12 as the minimum age for the procedure and the boy’s consent.

Jewish religious circumcision, or brit milah, is performed eight days after birth. Muslims typically circumcise boys before they turn the age of 10.

In Denmark, the Danish College of General Practitioners, which has 3,000 members, argued that non-medical circumcision of boys amounted to ‘’abuse and mutilation.’’

“We are not religious experts, but for medical reasons, we cannot approve a procedure that removes tissue from the genitals in which the risk is so great for serious complications” said the Swedish association’s ethics officer, Thomas Flodin.

The recommendation, which is non-binding, also said that circumcision should be performed only by physicians in a medical facility.

In October, the children’s ombudsmen of all Nordic countries — Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway — released a joint declaration proposing a ban on circumcision.

Swedish Minister for Integration, Erik Ullenhag, said existing rules that allow for religious circumcision would not be changed. Current Swedish legislation states that both medical and non-medical circumcision must be carried out by a licensed professional. Jewish ritual circumcisers (mohels) receive licenses from the national health board, but are required to be attended by a doctor or nurse during the procedure.

‘’The recommendation of the two medical associations is an insulting and intrusive assault on religious freedom,” reacted World Jewish Congress (WJC) CEO Robert Singer.

He added in a statement : “Religious circumcision, a procedure that has been practiced safely for millennia, confers notable health benefits. It is a bulwark against urinary-tract infections, cervical cancer and HIV-AIDS, which is why it is being promoted heavily by medical authorities in Africa and other places. Given the compelling religious freedom and health reasons for religious circumcision, the Swedish and Danish medical associations need to recognize that their call for a ban represents an appeal to xenophobia and ignorance and not enlightened science.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics stated in 2012 that the “preventive health benefits of elective circumcision of male newborns outweigh the risks of the procedure” and that “benefits include a significant reduction of urinary tract infections in the first year of life and, subsequently, in the risk of heterosexual acquisition of HIV and in the transmission of other sexually transmitted infections.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Director General of the European Jewish Association (EJA), an umbrella group of Jewish organisations active on European level, who has been leading the fight against attempts in Europe to ban circumcision and ritual slaughter of animals, says:"Modern medicines, including non- Jewish international health organizations overwhemingly advocate circumcision and its contribution to preventing diseases.''

He adds: ''In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that the “preventive health benefits of elective circumcision of male newborns outweigh the risks of the procedure” and that “benefits include a significant reduction of urinary tract infections in the first year of life and, subsequently, in the risk of heterosexual acquisition of HIV and in the transmission of other sexually transmitted infections.”

''Since 3,000 years Jews are being circumcised and grow up without any traumas,'' he stresses.

EJA has been conducting a join campaign with European Muslim leaders in an attempt to overturn various legislation that ban kosher butchering and circumcision “two traditions that are sacred both to Jews and Muslims.”

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 02 February 2014 09:16
 

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