A bill proposing a ban on circumcision which is currently before the Icelandic parliament has been hotly debated within the country as well as abroad.
The bill was put forth recently by Progressive Party MP Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir with the support of eight other MPs. It proposes a prison sentence of up to six years for anyone who carries out a circumcision on a child for non-medical reasons.
“In recent years,” the bill states, “the view has become widespread, and is quite prevalent in Europe, that circumcision carried out for any purpose other than health reasons is a violation of the human rights of boys due to irreversible interventions to their bodies in which they have not had a say.” The bill also says such circumcisions are carried out “in homes that are not sterile, and not by doctors but by religious leaders. There is a high risk of infections under such conditions that may lead to death.”
The bill draws parallels between the practice and female genital mutilation, which has been illegal in Iceland since 2005. A spokesperson for Milah UK told The Guardian these parallels were unwarranted, as male circumcision is a minor procedure with no recognized long-term negative impact. The spokesperson also said “Jewish male neonatal circumcision – known as brit milah – is a non-negotiable element of Jewish identity, common to Jews from all backgrounds and respected in liberal democratic countries. For a country such as Iceland, that considers itself a liberal democracy to ban it, thus making sustainable Jewish life in the country impossible, is extremely concerning.”
Bishop of the National Church of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir has expressed opposition to the bill, saying a ban could “criminalize” Judaism and Islam in Iceland and make “individuals who adhere to them be banned here in the country or unwelcome.” She added that such extreme measures should be avoided.