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Contribution to Book
The Grounds and Limits of Parents’ Cultural Prerogatives: The Case of Circumcision
The Nature of Children's Well-Being: Theory and Practice (2014)
  • Jurgen De Wispelaere, McGill University
  • Daniel Weinstock, McGill University
In June 2012, a German court in Cologne outlawed the circumcision for non-medical reasons of male children, when a young Muslim boy suffered complications after having undergone the procedure. The court judged that in the absence of consent, circumcision constitutes an assault on the physical integrity of children, one that cannot be justified by any offsetting benefit. The decision created a political firestorm, and by the end of the year, the German Bundestag had introduced legislation that reaffirmed the permissibility of such elective circumcisions, on condition that they be carried out in medically appropriate ways, and that parents be provided with information about the possible complications arising from circumcision. This controversy has reignited debate around the permissibility of circumcision. It also points to a broader ethical and political question, which has to do with the nature of the prerogative that ought to be granted by the state to parents to raise their children as they see fit, and in particular, to raise them in accordance with the tenets of a religion, even when in so doing they impose what would but for their religious identification represent setbacks to their interests. We will be exploring the question of the permissibility of circumcision in the context of this broader set of questions. In particular, we are interested in the question of the degree and ways in which parents should be allowed by the state to make decisions for their children which, though they may serve the cause of facilitating the integration of these children into their cultural or religious communities, may not be in the interest of children.
Publication Date
Alexander Bagattini and Colin MacLeod
Citation Information
Jurgen De Wispelaere and Daniel Weinstock. "The Grounds and Limits of Parents’ Cultural Prerogatives: The Case of Circumcision" The Nature of Children's Well-Being: Theory and Practice (2014)
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