The Children's Council and the Chair of the Ethical Council say it is
objectionable and ethically indefensible that while there is a law
preventing female genital mutilation, no such law exists for males.
Both the Jewish, Muslim and other traditions call for the circumcision of
males. In Denmark, the Chief Rabbi Bent Lexner carries out the circumcision
of Jewish boys. Muslim circumcisions are often carried out in clinics or
The Children's Council Chair Charlotte Guldberg
says the practice should be stopped.
"There is a deep problem here. Society is in no doubt that the genital
mutilation of girls is unacceptable - but we accept it with boys and have
tolerated it for many years because it is linked to religion. It is gender
discrimination from birth that we make a distinction between boys and
girls," says Gulberg, who adds that circumscision should be banned for boys
under 15 years of age. According to tradition, young Jewish boys are
circumcised at the age of eight days.
The Ethical Council does not have a general view of
circumcision, although Chairman Peder Agger does not immediately reject the
notion of legislation.
"There is an ethical problem. I would prefer people to wait until the child
is 15, thus respecting his right to choose and so that he knows what is
going on. I believe that one should not undertake physical procedures that
leave lasting scars or have lasting effect until a child is 15. And there
should be some discussion as to whether the procedure should be ritualised
in another way. In Denmark we have also stopped putting a child's head
completely under water during baptism," says Agger.
In the United States there is an increasing tendency
to carry out symbolic male circumcision by simply pricking the foreskin to
draw blood. But in Denmark, as in many other countries, boys have the entire
In the religious tradition, circumcision is part of
the covenant reported between God and Abraham. The relevant passage
regarding Abraham is found in Genesis 17: 9-14 and reads:
"Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and
your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant
with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every
male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it
will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to
come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised,
including those born in your household or bought with money from a
foreigner--those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household
or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your
flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not
been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has
broken my covenant."
Nonetheless, religions cannot set themselves outside
norms and violate a child's physical integrity according to Kirsten
Ketscher, Professor of Social Law at Copenhagen University. She tells
Kristeligt Dagblad that the procedure should wait until a child is old
enough to decide itself.
Chief Rabbi Bent Lexner, who has received special
training in the procedure, rejects both the idea of a legal ban and the
introduction of symbolic circumcision.
"Jews have been fighting for many years to maintain the tradition, as it is
a sign of Jewish identity. Even among Jewish families who do not live
according to Jewish practice there are only very few who do not have their
children circumcised. If you want to be part of the Jewish people, you have
to fulfill precisely that rule. Getting rid of circumcision would be the
same as removing baptism from the Christian faith," says Chief Rabbi Lexner.
Imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen says that parents exert their decisions on
children in many other issues also.
"They decide what clothes children have to wear so they aren't bullied. And
if children are to be able to decide, why shouldn't they be able to decide
themselves whether to be baptised," the Imam tells Kristeligt Dagblad.
There are some Christian directions and sects who practice circumcision.
These are predominantly the Coptic, Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches.