Swedish Ombudsman calls for ban on circumcision
Posted: Mon, 30 Sep 2013 15:17
The Swedish Ombudsman for Children has written to a newspaper calling for the country to outlaw the circumcision of boys.
"Circumcising a child without medical justification or his consent contravenes the child's human rights," wrote Fredrik Malmberg in a text co-signed with representatives from the Swedish Society of Medicine, the Swedish Society of Health Professionals, the Swedish Paediatric Society, and the Swedish Association of Paediatric Surgeons, and published in the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. "The operation is painful, irreversible and can lead to dangerous complications."
Mr Malmberg, said the practice of circumcision violates the basic rights of boys and is against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Circumcision was legalised in Sweden in 2001, when a new law permitted religious practitioners to perform the operation if the child is under two months old. After that it has to be done by a physician with the full consent of the parents, who must be fully informed of the implications. It is estimated that some 3,000 boys are circumcised every year in Sweden.
Ombudsmen from across Scandinavia are scheduled to meet today (Monday 30 September) in Oslo, Norway, to discuss the issue.
Last year, an attempt by the far-right Sweden Democrat party to ban circumcision was rejected.
The right-wing Sweden Democrats tabled a bill to criminalise non-medical circumcision, and the children’s ombudsman — together with representatives of several healthcare bodies — published an opinion piece in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter claiming that circumcision contravenes human rights.
Björn Söder and Per Ramhorn of the Sweden Democrat Party submitted the parliamentary motion, which notes that “outdated religious traditions aimed at mutilating small boys and girls… do not belong in a modern society governed by the rule of law”.
“I understand the Jews’ point of view and we have freedom of religion in Sweden, but sometimes it goes against human rights… Circumcision can affect one’s sex life. It is a form of mutilation,” said Mr Ramhorn.
“Outdated religious traditions aimed at mutilating small boys and girls… do not belong in a modern society governed by the rule of law”
“Any demand for the prohibition of brit milah is a frontal attack on Judaism,” said Göran Rosenberg, a prominent Swedish-Jewish author. “In Sweden, this demand is most aggressively pursued by the Sweden Democrats… This should worry those liberals and others who use the same arguments and who choose not to notice that there is an agenda of cultural and religious intolerance lurching beneath them.”
Benjamin Gerber, a pedagogue with the Jewish community in Gothenburg and the son of Sweden’s only non-medically trained mohel, criticised Sweden’s Council of Jewish Communities for avoiding the debate around circumcision. “This will not go away. Instead of keeping a low profile, it’s time for us Jews to come out and say that we have no problems with our bodies… We don’t have thousands of Jews and Muslims in Sweden complaining about feeling violated. Instead, the critics come from outside these communities.”
In Scandinavia, the campaign to ban circumcision has supporters across the political spectrum. In 2011, a number of medical doctors, academics, humanists and priests backed the Swedish Association of Health Professionals’ bid to outlaw circumcision, arguing that the practice violates personal integrity.
In Denmark, an organisation was formed earlier this year to campaign against non-medical circumcision following a debate sparked by a doctor who argued that circumcised men have poor sex lives.
In Norway, a number of organisations and politicians failed to push through a law last year to ban ritual circumcision; it can now only be carried out at hospitals there.
Norway’s children’s ombudsman reacted to the Op-Ed by reiterating the position that non-medical circumcision of boys is a human rights violation — a stance also held by counterpart organizations in Finland, Norway and Denmark.
Last week, a motion calling to ban the practice was submitted to Sweden’s parliament by two lawmakers from the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party. Earlier this month, Denmark’s left-leaning Social Liberal Party passed an internal motion in opposition of ritual circumcision of boys.