This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Bit of a Cut-Up in Germany Over Circumcision

Female circumcision has been in the news over the past several years, but little has been made of male circumcision until recently when, in Germany, a regional court effectively said that male circumcision should not be practiced in that country. As the New York Times reports:
When the time came to have their son circumcised at age 4, Muhsin Sapci and his wife, Gonca, both first generation immigrants from Turkey, assumed they would simply take the boy to the nearby Jewish Hospital, used by many Muslim families who also prefer to have the procedure done by a surgeon.But since a German court’s ruling that equated circumcision with bodily harm — and a criminal act — many hospitals across the nation have stopped performing the procedure. Germany’s ambassador to Israel was called before a parliamentary committee to explain the ruling. Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s foreign minister, said Friday that he had been showered with questions and criticism surrounding the ruling.
“They are all greatly concerned about the ramifications of the ruling, but mostly for Jewish and Muslim life in Germany,” Mr. Westerwelle said. There are 100,000 Jews and four million Muslims living here.

Fortunately, the German government stepped in quickly to reassure everyone that this was not something that the government was behind. The BBC News reports that:
The German government says Jewish and Muslim communities should be able to continue the practice of circumcision, after a regional court ruled it amounted to bodily harm.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said it was a case of protecting religious freedom.
Steffen Seibert said: "Circumcision carried out in a responsible manner must be possible without punishment."
Now, from a demographic perspective the issue of circumcision has two prongs: (1) forbidding it can obviously be seen as discrimination against minority ethnic/immigrant groups; and (2) research suggests that throughout the world, males who have been circumcised are less likely to spread HIV. Either way, the ability to choose circumcision is a potentially important demographic issue.

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