Circumcision and law

Laws restricting, regulating, or banning circumcision, some dating back to ancient times, have been enacted in many countries and communities. In modern states, circumcision is generally presumed to be legal, but laws pertaining to assault or child custody have been applied in cases involving circumcision. There are currently no states that unequivocally ban infant male circumcision for non-therapeutic reasons. In the case of non-therapeutic circumcision of children, proponents of laws in favor of the procedure often point to the rights of the parents or practitioners, namely the right of freedom to religion. Those against the procedure point to the boy's right of freedom from religion. In several court cases, judges have pointed to the irreversible nature of the act,[1] the grievous harm to the boy's body,[2] and the right to self-determination, and bodily integrity.[3]

Legal history of circumcision

In Judaism

There are ancient religious requirements for circumcision. The Hebrew Bible commands Jews to circumcise their male children on the eighth day of life, and to circumcise their male Genesis 17:11–12).

Laws banning circumcision are also ancient. The ancient Greeks prized the foreskin and disapproved of the Jewish custom of circumcision.[4] 1 Maccabees, 1:60–61 states that King Antiochus IV of Syria, the occupying power of Judea in 170 BCE, outlawed circumcision on penalty of death.[5] one of the grievances leading to the Maccabean Revolt.[6]

According to the Historia Augusta, the Roman emperor Hadrian issued a decree banning circumcision in the empire,[7] and some modern scholars argue that this was a main cause of the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt of 132 CE.[8] The Roman historian Cassius Dio, however, made no mention of such a law, and blamed the Jewish uprising instead on Hadrian's decision to rebuild Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina, a city dedicated to Jupiter.

Genesis 17:12 He also made it illegal for a man to convert to Judaism.[9] Antoninus Pius exempted the Egyptian priesthood from the otherwise universal ban on circumcision.

Soviet Union

Before glasnost, according to an article in The Jewish Press, Jewish ritual circumcision was forbidden in the USSR.[10] However, David E. Fishman, professor of Jewish History at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, states that, whereas the heder and yeshiva, the organs of Jewish education, "were banned by virtue of the law separating church and school, and subjected to tough police and administrative actions," circumcision was not proscribed by law or suppressed by executive measures.[11] Jehoshua A. Gilboa writes that while circumcision was not officially or explicitly banned, pressure was exerted to make it difficult. Mohels in particular were concerned that they could be punished for any health issue that might develop, even if it arose some time after the circumcision.[12]

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