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Male circumcision should be cut

While there are laws preventing female genital mutilation in Denmark, there are none preventing male genital mutilation. Demands for action.

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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 hospitals.

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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 foreskin removed.

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.

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