Petition forces Danish parliament to debate minimum age for circumcisions

Petition forces Danish parliament to debate minimum age for circumcisions
A petition calling for the introduction of an age restriction for circumcision is to be debated in the Danish parliament. If passed, the bill imposing limits on the procedure would be the first of its kind in the world.

The proposal was forced onto the agenda after more than 50,000 people signed a citizens’ petition calling for a minimum age of 18 for circumcision. The bill is scheduled to be debated in the autumn but appears unlikely to pass, given the lack of support from the country’s government.

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Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen has publicly criticized the bill, saying that it would be “incomprehensible” to Denmark’s allies to pass a law restricting circumcision.

Speaking to Danish newspaper Altinget, Samuelsen said: “From an American point of view, it will be incomprehensible. Up to 60 percent of American men have been circumcised. From Israel's point of view, and from large parts of the Muslim world, it will be completely incomprehensible.”

The petition suggests that the law can be introduced under the health, criminal law or parental responsibility acts in the country’s constitution. “Children are among the most vulnerable citizens in society, as they rely on the care and protection of adults,” the petition reads.

“Therefore, society has a special obligation to protect children's fundamental rights until they reach an age and maturity where they can take over this responsibility themselves.”

Circumcision is performed most often among people from Islamic or Jewish cultures. The health benefits of circumcision have been debated for some years, with some studies tracing falling incidence of penis cancer in uncircumcised populations.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, circumcised men are less likely than uncircumcised men to get HIV from a HIV-positive female partner. It also reduces the risk of men getting herpes or human papillomavirus (HPV) from a partner with those infections.

This is not the first time that restrictions on circumcisions have been proposed in Scandinavian countries. In March, Iceland moved to introduce a ban on non-therapeutic male circumcision. Last year, Norway also proposed a bill outlawing ritual circumcision of boys under 16.  

READ MORE: Ban on young boys’ circumcision proposed in Norway

In 2011, the Swedish parliament passed a law mandating that circumcision will only be allowed under an anesthetic, and with a doctor or nurse present. The law was opposed by Swedish Jews and Muslims, who claimed it violated their religious rights.

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