Council of Europe doubles down on anti-ritual circumcision stance

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Pan-European body maintains position that a brit milah violates children’s rights

October 10, 2015, 5:55 am 24

Illustrative photo of Jews performing a religious circumcision. (Serge Attal/Flash90)

Illustrative photo of Jews performing a religious circumcision. (Serge Attal/Flash90)

The Council of Europe is maintaining its position that non-medical circumcision of boys is a violation of children’s rights, despite reports in Israeli media that said the council reversed its position.

According to statements from Israeli politicians and Jewish activists, the Council of Europe — a body for pan-European dialogue that lacks executive powers — switched positions when its Parliamentary Assembly passed Resolution 2076 on “Freedom of religion and living together in a democratic society” on Sept. 30.

Milah UK, a leading Jewish advocacy group supporting the practice of circumcision, on Tuesday said in a statement that the resolution “cancels a previous motion that had cast into doubt the legality of religious circumcision.” Milah is the Hebrew name for the ritual circumcision of eight-day-old males.

In 2013, the assembly passed Resolution 1952, which states that the practice of ritual circumcision, along with female genital mutilation, is a harmful “violation of the physical integrity of children.”

But Nathalie Bargellini, a spokesperson for the council’s Parliamentary Assembly, on Thursday told JTA that Resolution 2076 “does not cancel nor replace Resolution 1952.” She noted the more recent resolution references the older one.

Bargellini also said that Resolution 2076 “calls for strict conditions governing the exercise of this practice.” According to the new resolution, “circumcision should not be allowed ‘unless practiced by a person with the requisite training and skill, in appropriate medical and health conditions,’” Bargellini said.

Resolution 1952 carried no such recommendation for outlawing certain types of circumcision. Though it is nonbinding, the 2013 resolution was controversial and was seen as significant because it was the first time that a prominent pan-European institution weighed in on the circumcision debate.