Netherlands insurer defends coverage for circumcisions

Amid debate on Muslim traditions, right-wing Dutch outlets say move constitutes ‘support for genital mutilation’

Illustrative: Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky seen at a circumcision ceremony in Israel on May 02, 2016. (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90)
Illustrative: Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky seen at a circumcision ceremony in Israel on May 02, 2016. (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90)

AMSTERDAM – A major insurer in the Netherlands defended its coverage of circumcision in boys younger than 18 for religious reasons amid criticism of the practice and the impact of Islam in society.

Zilveren Kruis (Silver Cross), which is the kingdom’s largest insurer, included religious circumcision in its 2017 brochure published earlier this month and then defended it in a statement published on its website Tuesday.

“We are seeing that some of the insured parties want to be circumcised or have their boys circumcised,” the agency wrote in replying to “various questions over why some complementary plans include reimbursement for non-medical circumcision,” as Zilveren Kruis defined it.

On Tuesday, René van Rijckevorsel, the acting editor-in-chief of the conservative Elsevier weekly, wrote on Twitter that Zilveren Kruis is encouraging female genital mutilation. After Zilveren Kruis clarified that their insurance covers only males, van Rijckevorsel said he considered this, too, “mutilation.”

But in its statement, Zilveren Kruis suggested its coverage encourages parents to have the procedure performed hygienically and in licensed clinics.

The right-leaning news blog GeenStijl, which boasts 2 million views per month, wrote that Zilveren Kruis is moving into the niche that until recently was occupied only by specialized insurance companies catering specifically to Muslims. Zilveren Kruis began including non-medical circumcision of boys in some of its plans in 2014.

In northern Europe, non-medical circumcision of boys is under attack from critics who see it as a foreign influence by Muslims and by progressives who say they do not object to such influences per se, but do view this particular custom as violating children’s rights.

A similar debate has evolved around ritual slaughter of animals.

Both customs are partly shared by Jews and Muslims, though, among other differences, Judaism has stricter regulations on both.

About half of Dutch Jews do not perform circumcision on their boys, according to a 2009 survey by the community.

Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs said that Zilveren Kruis’ inclusion of circumcision is “clearly meant to benefit Muslims, not Jews,” as mohalim, or trained Jewish circumcizers, perform it for free.

Zilveren Kruis’ decision, Jacobs said, to offer reimbursement does not affect Jews but is a “positive thing” for society because it helps avoid health risks in Muslim circumcisions, which are sometimes performed by unqualified relatives.

Separately, in October a Swedish court rejected a Muslim mother’s request for reimbursement from her municipality for the circumcision of her son, the Vetlanda Posten lcal newspaper reported.

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