While I believe in religious freedom, that is that everyone is free to believe what they will, the practice of those beliefs is permitted only when they do not infringe on the rights of others. A court in Germany has finally taken that seriously and declared that circumcision of children is bodily harm. If your religion wants you to be circumcised then that is your choice. However, a baby has not chosen their religion and you do not have the right to force your religious beliefs on your child. Furthermore the baby is not able to consent to the surgery. It can only be religion that could convince people that removing parts of the body with no consent is perfectly acceptable practice.
That’s not say circumcision is completely useless. There is some evidence that it can lessen the chance of HIV infection however the benefits do not override our ethical obligations to the child. Circumcision only lessens HIV transmission from heterosexual intercourse, at which stage the child should have become old enough to give consent. As the operation is not life-saving nor does it need to be performed early to work there is a great benefit from waiting. Parents need to make the best decisions possible for their children until they are able to make their own decisions but this is an issue which can be postponed for the child’s choice but which can’t easily be reversed. A child should be able to grow up with an intact body rather than one that has been modified in a way that they may not agree with.
This isn’t the first call for the practice to be banned. The BBC also has articles from when the Royal Dutch Medical Association wanted circumcision banned in the Netherlands and when a San Francisco judge stopped a proposal to ban male circumcision. The German decision is not legally binding but has set a precedent in the country. As the German court put it:
[The] fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents.