When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

After Circumcision Ban, German Courts Target Child Ear-Piercing

You're a big girl now
You're a big girl now
Matthias Kamann

BERLIN - In the debate in Germany over circumcision, you often hear people say jokingly that if cutting the foreskin off a baby boy’s penis for religious reasons is outlawed then piercing little girls’ earlobes shouldn’t be allowed either. But that’s just the scenario that may be shaping up. After a Cologne court ruled in June that circumcision was illegal, a Berlin judge is examining whether or not ear-piercing should be as well.

The issue has come up in conjunction with a suit against a tattoo studio by the parents of a three-year-old girl whose ears were pierced at the studio. A judge must rule on whether the parents should be punished for having sought the piercing, and whether the studio can be prosecuted for not having refused to perform the procedure. A decision is expected by August 31.

The parents of the girl said in their suit that the child cried from an inordinate amount of pain as her ears were being pierced. During a medical examination three days later the child was still manifesting a traumatic reaction.

Many doctors argue that the same holds true for circumcision: although it’s just a small cut, Jewish and Muslim boys who undergo the procedure suffer not only physically but psychologically from it.

The issue of circumcision could be coming up before a German court again shortly as the prosecution in the city of Hof in Bavaria completes an inquiry against Rabbi David Goldberg who conducts ritual circumcisions some 30 times a year.

Sebastian Guevara Kamm, a doctor in the central German city of Giessen, has filed a complaint against the rabbi, accusing him of inflicting bodily harm. According to Kamm, Rabbi Goldberg does not have a medical license to perform the operation, and performs it without anesthetic in medically unsuitable conditions.

The prosecution in Hof is aware of the explosive nature of the issue, and lead prosecuting attorney Gerhard Schmitt has said that he wants to "examine all aspects" before proceeding. He stated that the material was very complex due to its considerable political importance and that the inquiry could thus stretch out over a matter of weeks.

Just how complicated the issue is became clear on Thursday in Berlin when circumcision was discussed by the German National Ethics Council. The Council agreed unanimously (albeit conditionally) that the religious practice could not be forbidden, yet Council member Reinhard Merkel, a legal scholar in Hamburg, stated that it was "bizarre" that religious communities were allowed to define when and how a human body could be injured.

Merkel spoke of a "legal policy crisis" that entailed weighing a child’s right to bodily integrity against religious requirements. In the case of the Jews, “indebtedness” to them on the part of the world community should allow for a “special law” with regard to the practice, he said.

Cologne-based Council member Wolfram Höfling, an expert in constitutional law, considered the issue in terms of parental rights, saying that if parents for religious reasons consider the ritual to be in the best interests of the child then this should be respected, particularly as circumcisions have been performed millions of times without complications or traumatization.

Jewish Council member Leo Latasch and Muslim representative Ilhan Ilkilic both stressed the importance of the ritual in their respective religions.

But despite differences of opinion, the Ethics Council had, said its Chair Christian Woopen, come to the conclusion that circumcision should be allowed albeit under qualified medical supervision, with anesthetic, and provision of comprehensive information to the parents beforehand about possible risks of the procedure.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest