(JTA) – Hundreds of physicians in Iceland and some of Belgium’s top doctors came out in support of a bill proposing to criminalize nonmedical circumcision of boys in the Scandinavian island nation. The approximately 500 Icelandic physicians who backed the bill that was submitted last month to the parliament cited the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki on ethical principles. “Potential complications should offset the benefits” of male circumcision, “which are few,” the Icelandic physicians wrote in a joint statement published Feb. 22. Advocates of male circumcision include many physicians who believe it reduces the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and genital infections. In Belgium, several prominent physicians, including Guy T’Sjoen of Ghent University Hospital, told the De Morgen daily they also support a ban. In Denmark, a petition featured on the parliament’s website proposing to ban nonmedical circumcision of boys has received 20,000 signatures out of the 50,000 needed to come up for a parliamentary vote as draft resolution. As per a new law, the petition, which was posted on Feb. 1, will remain active for 180 days.
Throughout Scandinavia, the nonmedical circumcision of boys under 18 is the subject of a debate on children’s rights and religious freedoms. The children’s ombudsmen of all Nordic countries – Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway – released a joint declaration in 2013 proposing a ban, though none of these countries has enacted one. In the debate, circumcision is under attack from right-wing politicians who view it as a foreign import whose proliferation is often associated mostly with Muslim immigration. And it is also opposed by left-wing liberals and atheists who denounce it as a primitive form of child abuse.
A similar debate is taking place across Western Europe about the ritual slaughter of animals, which is illegal in several European Union member states.