Ethics committee rules against infant circumcision


After three years, the government’s Committee for Bio-Ethics has ruled that a child’s right to bodily integrity is more important than its parents’ religious faith

‘Difficult question’

The federal government’s Committee for Bio-Ethics has ruled against the circumcision of infant boys for reasons other than medical necessity. Its ruling states that bodily integrity is more important than religious faith.

The committee was ruling on a question posed in 2014 by Brussels doctors, who asked whether carrying out ritual circumcision of infant boys was ethically correct. The process is irreversible, has no medical justification in most cases, and is performed on minors unable to give their own permission.

The committee has taken three years to give its ruling, it said, because of the religious and cultural importance of the question.

“We’re dealing with a very difficult question,” said Paul Schotsmans of the University of Leuven on behalf of the committee. “On the one hand you have the freedom of religion, which means a parent is allowed to have their son circumcised for religious reasons.”

On the other hand, he said, is the child’s right to physical integrity, which is protected by the International Treaty on the Rights of the Child, and in particular its protection from physical injury.

“As circumcision is irreversible and therefore a radical operation, we find the physical integrity of the child takes precedence over the belief system of the parents,” the committee chair  Marie-Geneviève Pinsart pronounced.
Photo: Ingimage