German MPs adopted a cross-party motion on Thursday calling on the government to protect religious circumcision after a court ruling branding it a crime sparked outrage at home and abroad.
The resolution urges Berlin to draw up legislation in the autumn that “ensures that the circumcision of boys carried out to medically professional standards and without undue pain is fundamentally permissible.”
The measure, while merely symbolic for the moment, was passed with the support of deputies from all parties in the Bundestag lower house except the far-left Linke.
In a ruling published in June, a court in the western city of Cologne said circumcision was tantamount to grievous bodily harm, a verdict Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly said risked making Germany a “laughing stock”.
Diplomats admit that the ruling has proved “disastrous” to Germany’s international image, particularly in light of its Nazi past, following uproar from religious and political leaders in Israel as well as Muslim countries.
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said ahead of the circumcision debate before the Bundestag that he was glad that parliament was taking “quick and decisive action”.
“The resolution shows that we live in a tolerant and cosmopolitan country. No one in the world would understand it if Germany banned its Jewish citizens from having their boys circumcised,” he added.
Protecting religious rites and traditions was part and parcel of ensuring religious tolerance, said Westerwelle.
The justice ministry, however, has expressed doubts whether a draft law could be ready by the autumn given the legal complexities of balancing religious freedoms with the rights of children.
While parliament appeared relatively united on the issue, a survey suggested that the population at large was more divided.
A YouGov poll for local news agency DPA said 45 percent of those asked were in favour of forbidding the rite of circumcision, with 42 percent opposed to a ban.
One-third of those polled thought a nationwide ban would harm Germany’s image in the world and 55 percent disagreed.
The Paediatricians’ Guild registered its displeasure with the parliamentary motion, saying that passing legislation protecting religious circumcision played down its potential “lifelong physical and above all emotional damage”.
Women’s rights organisation Terre Des Femmes said it feared such a law would be used to justify ritual genital mutilation of girls — an argument several deputies vehemently disputed during the debate.
The practice is legally banned in Germany and the Bundestag underlined its opposition to it in the motion.