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Norway Planning New Circumcision Legislation

Health ministry to introduce 2014 legislation to ‘regulate ritual circumcision’

Stephanie Butnick
November 12, 2013

Norway’s health minister has announced plans to introduce legislation early next year that will “regulate ritual circumcision,” JTA reports. The regulations will target non-medical circumcision of boys younger than 18 years old, Bent Hoie, the health minister, explained.

“We will review submissions on the matter before we can decide what should be the government’s position. We aim to present a bill before Easter,” Hoie told Aftenposten last week. He did not say whether the regulations would introduce new restrictions.

This development is especially suspect given the relatively small number of circumcisions that are actually performed in Norway each year—Aftenposten puts the figure at 2,000 Muslims and just seven Jewish newborns annually. This move makes Norway the latest in a series of European countries who have attempted to enact regulations on ritual circumcision, an action which has frightened the country’s 700-strong Jewish community.

In the summer of 2012, when Germany was considering a ban on circumcision, Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg relayed the (very strong) scientific case for circumcision, a practice the American Academy of Pediatrics approved the following month:

Given this impressive scientific consensus as to the medical dividends of male circumcision, the German court’s judgment—which permits circumcision for “medical reasons”—is a confused and ignorant muddle. Some have rightly criticized it as an assault on millennia of Jewish tradition and practice (not to mention Islam), something one would have thought a German court would be sensitive enough to avoid. But the ruling itself, as the research above amply demonstrates, is logically incoherent and factually wrong for a simple reason: All circumcisions are medically beneficial. Whether or not the procedure stems from religious motivations, it will have measurable health benefits. So by the court’s own reasoning, all religious circumcisions ought to be permissible as long as the parents also want the medical dividends—which effectively means that circumcision has not been banned at all. Of course, it is very unlikely that this is what the court intended and much more likely that it was entirely unaware of the scientific consensus surrounding circumcision’s advantages.

We’ll keep you posted as the situation develops.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.