Male circumcision debate continues in Denmark and across Europe

Denmark is among the first countries to propose legislation against male circumcision, joining rank with Iceland and Germany.

By Holden Aguirre and Sierra Lopez

Those who wish to place an age restriction on male circumcision in Denmark hope to set a precedent for the whole of Europe and, eventually the U.S., despite opposition from religious groups.

In 2016, what has been referred to as a “ban” on male circumcision in Denmark was struck down by parliament, even with a survey reporting nearly 90 percent of Danes being in support of implementing an age restriction on the procedure.

It’s time for a change,” said Dr. Morten Frisch, consultant and adjunct professor for the department of epidemiology research at the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen. “The central person in this situation, the child, should have the right to decide what happens to their own body.”

Frisch, who has authored, and co-authored, several academic journals researching male circumcision, found male infants who have been circumcised have a 26-times higher likelihood of developing meatus stenosis, an abnormal narrowing of the urethral opening. Also, Frisch suggests there exists a greater probability of the development of autism in infant males who have undergone the surgery.

In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report stating the medical benefits of male circumcision are far greater than the possibility of any minor complications which may develop because of the procedure.

Frisch said he believes most medical professionals in Europe disagree with the statement made in the CDCs report and, regardless of the medical debate, this is a human rights issue.

“We go against this treatment when it comes to girls,” said Frisch. “Why do we have this double standard when it comes to boys?”

According to 2016 statistics from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the number of circumcised males in Denmark was 5 percent.

In the U.S., 71 percent of men are circumcised. The number of U.S. newborns being circumcised has seen a gradual decline from 80 percent in the 1970s to 55 percent in 2018.

Most recently, Iceland has put forth a proposal to ban male circumcision, which has been met with extreme upset by Jews and Muslims, who view the practice of circumcision as a religious ritual.

Frisch said he believes male circumcision will eventually be outlawed in Denmark and all of Europe, but that religious minorities and cultural bias will make change slow and difficult.

According to Imran Shah, a spokesperson for Det Islamiske Trossamfund (DIT), translating to the Islamic Religious Community, “I think it’s outrageous for politicians or any organization to listen to arguments against religious freedom.”

Shah states that there has been a pattern of legislation which has limited the free practice of both Muslims and Jewish communities such as religious dress and slaughter practices.

“Historically this has never been an issue, and this is just a continuation of a xenophobic agenda taking control of Europe,” says Shah.

The Danish publication, The Local, reported that the Danish Health and Medicines Authority estimates around 1,000 to 2,000 infant boys are circumcised each year primarily from Muslim and Jewish descent.

Shah believes the potential ban is fueled by fear and is politically motivated. He also claims the current numbers used to suggest surgical complications are based on incorrect subjects such as grown men and children born with genital mutations.

Shah states, “Pediatricians recommend the procedures and say the benefits outweigh the risks. That’s scientifically proven and not relative.”

In 2003, female circumcision, now referred to as female genital mutilation, was outlawed and deemed a “barbaric tradition” by former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Supporters of the ban claim male circumcisions are similarly backward but Shah states the two procedures are not comparable.

“I fully understand the ban on female circumcision. I don’t understand the need for a ban on male circumcision,” says Shah. He went on to state, “We have a constitutional right to religious practice.”

When asked his thoughts on the agency of children Shah stated, “Everyone wants to talk about the rights of the children but if that’s so then why don’t we consider the rights of unborn children? What about abortion?”

Current Danish law requires all circumcision to be reported in order to keep an accurate database of the procedure. An original database existed but due to being illegally kept, was deleted. A doctor must also be present during any procedure performed in a religious ceremony.

Written for an American Audience