Reykjavik, Iceland, Feb 8, 2018 / 00:00 am
A new bill proposed in Iceland that would make circumcision punishable by up to six years in prison is a “dangerous attack” on religious freedom, Cardinal Reinhard Marx has said.
“Protecting the health of children is a legitimate goal of every society, but in this case this concern is instrumentalized, without any scientific basis, to stigmatise certain religious communities. This is extremely worrying,” Marx said in a statement.
Marx commented on the issue as President of the Catholic Church in the European Union (COMECE). While Iceland does not belong to the European Union, it does have “privileged relations” with EU countries, COMECE noted.
“COMECE considers any attempt on the fundamental right to freedom of religion as unacceptable. The criminalisation of circumcision is a very grave measure that raises deep concern,” Marx added.
Circumcision is a religious ritual for many, notably Jews and Muslims. Jews typically circumcise infant boys eight days after birth, while Muslim practices vary widely.
The proposed bill states that “Anyone who...causes damage to the body or health of a child or a woman by...removing sexual organs shall be imprisoned for up to 6 years.”
The bill specifically states that circumcisions on boys, if performed for non-medical reasons, would be banned in Iceland under the bill. Female circumcision has been banned in Iceland since 2005.
Male circumcisions used to be “generally encouraged...to prevent various disorders and behaviors,” the bill states.