VIENNA (JTA) — Danish anti-circumcision activists have collected nearly 20,000 signatures out of the 50,000 they need to create a bill proposing to ban non-medical circumcision for boys.
With another five months to collect the remaining 30,000 signatures, the petition by the group Denmark Intact appears likely to reach its goal of forcing a vote in parliament that would set 18 years as the minimum age for the procedure.
According to regulations passed in January, petitions approved for posting on the Folketinget, or Citizen Proposal, website are brought to a vote if they receive 50,000 signatures with six months of their appearance. The petition, which Denmark Intact is promoting on social networks, was launched on February 1.
The petition proposes a punishment of up to six years in prison for any person who “physically assaults, with or without consent, mutilates or otherwise removes external sex organs in whole or in part” from children younger than 18.
It describes circumcision as a form of abuse and corporal punishment, equating it with female genital mutilation. The petition states that parents who have their children circumcised outside Denmark would be exposed to legal action in Denmark, which has 8,000 Jews and tens of thousands of Muslims.
Members of both faiths circumcise male boys.
Last month, lawmakers from four parties in Iceland submitted a bill proposing to ban non-medical circumcision of boys, in what the leaders of the Jewish communities of all Nordic countries said would prevent a Jewish community from establishing itself there. Iceland has fewer than 250 Jews but this year will receive its first resident rabbi in decades. It also has a few hundred Muslims.
Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of international Jewish affairs at the American Jewish Committee, said Tuesday that an Iceland official told him that over the past decade, the island nation has had 14 circumcisions of boys.
Danish Jews are concerned both by the petition in their country and the Icelandic legislation “because they fear it will set a precedent,” Baker said at the European Jewish Congress’ five-day conference in Vienna titled “An End to Anti-Semitism.” The group organized the forum with the University of Vienna.
“Nordic countries will somehow look one to another, and it’ll open the door and so here we are, fighting for the protection of an element of religious practice on behalf of, frankly, a handful of people who may themselves never actually exercise it,” he said.
“This is in its own way an existential threat to Jewish life,” Baker said of the proposed bans on circumcision. “We have to acknowledge the kind of public discourse that accompanies these debates.”