Danish parliament to consider ban on circumcision: report

A petition demanding parliament consider implementing a ban on circumcising boys under 18 is set to be considered by parliament.

Danish parliament to consider ban on circumcision: report
File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The petition reached in June the 50,000 signatures required to force parliament to take up the issue.

Parliament’s justice administration (Lovsekretariat) has since processed the petition and found it not to be in breach of the constitution and therefore valid for parliamentary consideration.

Intact Danmark, a lobby group opposed to circumcision of healthy children, told broadcaster DR it expected parliament to vote on the issue in October.

“We are pleased. It is a small piece of Danish and world history that we are now ready to take this step,” the group’s chairperson Lena Nyhus told DR.

Supporters of the ban say that children should be allowed the right to make their own decisions over the procedure, and that long-term physical effects can result.

Opponents argue that it is parents’ right to circumcise children under 18 and that religious circumcisions fall under freedom of religion.

According to a survey conducted by DR in April, the majority of parties in parliament are yet to confirm their position on the issue or will allow their MPs to vote in accordance with personal views.

Circumcision of boys in Denmark is not common and is usually only conducted for religious reasons.

In 2016, The Economist reported that over 50 percent of male children were circumcised in the United States, in comparison with between two and three percent in Finland and the United Kingdom.

READ ALSO: Danish circumcision ban to go to parliament


Petition for Danish circumcision ban loses political support

The wording of a petition for a minimum age on circumcision has resulted in a loss of support from politicians.

Petition for Danish circumcision ban loses political support
A petition proposing an age limit on circumcision reached the required number of signatures for parliamentary procedure. File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The petition to ban circumcision of children, forwarded by lobby group Intact Denmark, in June reached the 50,000 signatures required in order to force parliament to take up the issue. 

While many politicians previously supported the implementation of an age limit for circumcision, they are now withdrawing their support. This is due to key elements of the proposal, newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad writes.

Intact Denmark is a lobby group which aims to “stop genital mutilation of all children worldwide regardless of cultural affiliation or religion of their parents,” according to the organisation’s website.

Intact claims that Denmark has neglected to comply with international regulations by allowing male circumcision. The petition states, among other things, that a “gender-neutral age of 18 years for circumcision” will ensure “implementation” of the European Council’s biological ethics conventions.

By supporting the proposal, politicians can also ensure that Denmark lives up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, they say.

However, the argument that Denmark is not in compliance with the convention is inaccurate, according to a number of prior written evaluations by the Ministry of Health. Denmark is already complying with the convention as detailed by the UN, the ministry found.

“It is simply not correct that we do not live up to this convention already,” MP Liselott Blixt, chair of the parliamentary Health Committee, said to Kristeligt Dagblad.

Blixt has, however, advocated an age limit on circumcision for a number of years, the newspaper writes.

The Danish People's Party MP also criticized the proposal as it is currently worded, arguing that it would legalize female circumcision.

Jane Heitman, health spokesperson with the governing Liberal (Venstre) party, has also confirmed she will not vote for the proposal. 

“I stand by the answer given by the ministry, which emphasizes that current practices do not pose any threats in relation to the UN Convention on Children’s rights,” Heitman told Kristeligt Dagblad.

“In addition, I think it is completely unacceptable and irresponsible to allow circumcision of women,” she added.