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December 3, 2016 / 3 Kislev, 5777
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Swedish Illegal Circumcision Ends in Arrest, But Legal Rites Are Scarce

The curious case brings to light a real problem in Sweden caused by the reluctance of doctors and nurses to assist in or perform circumcisions.


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The curious case brings to light a real problem in Sweden caused by the reluctance of doctors and nurses to assist in or perform circumcisions.

The curious case brings to light a real problem in Sweden caused by the reluctance of doctors and nurses to assist in or perform circumcisions.



Two boys, both younger than ten, were circumcised on Sunday, in Eksjö, central Sweden.

“The police received a call on Sunday from someone who had heard the boys screaming,” local police spokesman Göran Gunnarsson told the TT news agency.

The police arrived at the scene to find a 36-year-old woman, believed to be related to the boys—but it wasn’t clear at the time if she was their mother. She was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault, since it is illegal to perform circumcisions in Sweden without the supervision of a medical professional.

In 2001, the Swedish parliament passed a law to protect boys against being circumcised without a professional present. The legislation was designed to safeguard against all the imaginable results of an unskilled circumcision, from unnecessary discomfort to infection and, potentially, death.

After the first two months of life, circumcisions can only be performed by a physician in Sweden. The stated purpose of the law was to increase the safety of the procedure. But that would make it especially tough for Muslims, who circumcise boys at age 13, the age at which Abraham circumcised Ishmael.

Swedish Jews and Muslims objected to the law at the time. In 2001, the World Jewish Congress called it “the first legal restriction on Jewish religious practice in Europe since the Nazi era.” The requirement for an anaesthetic to be administered by a medical professional is a major issue, and the low availability of certified professionals willing to conduct circumcision has also presented a problem.

According to a survey, two out of three pediatric surgeons said they refuse to perform non-therapeutic circumcision, and fewer than half of all county councils offer it in their hospitals.

In 2006, the U.S. State Department stated, in a report on Sweden, that most Jewish mohels had been certified under the new law and some 3000 Muslim and 50 Jewish boys are being circumcised each year there.

But, according to a Swedish newspaper source, an estimated 2000 of the circumcisions in Sweden are performed by persons who are neither physicians nor have been officially certified.

The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare reviewed the law in 2005 and recommended that the law had failed to increase the safety of circumcisions in Sweden. A later report by the Board criticized the low number of legal circumcisions, which are the result of many health professional’s refusal to conduct or supervise the surgery.

The prosecutor assigned to the case in Eksjö told Sveriges Radio that the boys were doing well despite the circumstances.

That’s a relief. Although I would recommend follow up, both by an MD and a therapist.

Most circumcisions in Sweden take place in the Jewish and Muslim communities. According to TT, the practice is extremely rare in the wider population.

According to a September 2012 report by Sveriges Television, Swedish health authorities estimate that around 3,000 male circumcisions take place in the country each year.

“You’ve got to be practical. We can’t say ‘You can’t circumcise your children because we don’t do that here in Sweden,’ because it will happen anyway,” Gothenburg pediatrician Tomas Arvidsson told Sveriges Radio. “Which means we have to perform circumcision, and the least we can do is to have certified personnel to take care of the operation.”

In 2001, the Swedish Parliament enacted a law allowing only persons certified by the National Board of Health to circumcise infants. It requires a medical doctor or an anesthesia nurse to accompany the circumciser and for anaesthetic to be applied beforehand.

I’m not a medical person, but the thought of applying anesthesia to an 8-day old infant sounds dangerous to me.

Yori Yanover

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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Imported and Older Comments:

  1. DanSilagi says:

    That would be topical anesthesia, a numbing cream. Not in the least bit dangerous, and relieves any pain associated wioth the procedure. Or would you rather have the kid scream his head off?

  2. RichardBaskett says:

    “I’m not a medical person, but the thought of applying anesthesia to an 8-day old infant sounds dangerous to me”.
    And performing unnecessary surgery on a baby isn’t?

  3. Dan Silagi says:

    That would be topical anesthesia, a numbing cream. Not in the least bit dangerous, and relieves any pain associated wioth the procedure. Or would you rather have the kid scream his head off?

  4. day.roland says:

    Childhood male circumcision is a surgical operation to excise healthy functional human tissue from the body of a non-consenting child.

    The European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (1997) flatly states that the removal of tissue from a child is an unethical procedure.

    The Swedish doctors rightfully refrain from participating in an unethical operation that, if performed, would violate the human rights of the child.

  5. LawrenceKauderer says:

    In response to those who believe circumcision is some sort of barbaric mistreatment of infant boys. The procedure has been successfully performed in the Jewish community for thousands of years. Unlike Muslims, Jewish circumcision is performed when the child is just days old not thirteen. I don’t have a problem with the Swedish law because we wouldn’t want to cause undo pain to a child by having an unskilled person perform the procedure. Laura Intactivist, you’re wrong because it has been proven that circumcision is medically beneficial because by removing the flap of skin, it reduces the risk of bacterial infections from taking place. In the future, try not having your anti-Semitic fangs protrude so prominently.

  6. LaurelWingRobertson says:

    Most kids scream their heads off anyway, if they don’t go into shock. Anesthetics have been studied with regards to their effectiveness during this procedure. Even a dorsal nerve block isn’t completely effective, which is argument enough against this unnecessary procedure, ethical issues notwithstanding …

  7. LaurelWingRobertson says:

    There is nothing anti-semitic about Laura’s post.

    I do hope you realize that claiming that persons who object to circumcision are (on that basis alone) anti-semitic actually weakens the impact of such a statement.

    It’s like you’re saying ‘you disagree with something I’m doing so because I’m a Jew, you must be anti-Semitic’. Though, in fact, the objection is to the action, and not to the ‘Jewishness’ of the person performing the action.

    Such claims are an affront to the millions of Jews who suffered at the hands of anti-Semitism and only weaken any further arguments you make.

    Now, as for the mistakes in the article and your arguments:

    1) Muslims have no set age for circumcision. Some do it in infancy, others after puberty.

    2) Circumcision is not medically beneficial and the so called studies which claim that it is are flawed, sometimes to the point of negligence.

    3) if you want to have a covenant with God, then why not scar yourself instead of insisting you do it to someone else? that’s not much of a sacrifice.

    4) what kind of God would create at thing and then demand you cut it off?

    5) Why is it that you cling so desperately to this particular habit where as there are many other ‘laws’ which you ignore? Even in Christianity, when circumcision was deemed not only necessary but a sign of lack of faith it was said that if the person insisted on being circumcised, they were bound to fulfill the “whole law”. Why is it that you would not stone a drunk and disorderly son yet still inflict this pain upon a newborn son and robbing him of a piece of his body, even before he can decide for himself if he wanted to follow Judaism to that extent?.

    I conclude with a warning: if you are unwilling to afford others (even your children) the right to religious freedom, how can you expect to be given the same right yourself?

  8. LaurelWingRobertson says:

    http://www.salem-news.com/articles/december112011/circumcision-hiv-rg.php

    Just one of the many refutations of the ‘medical benefits’ of circumcision.

    You can get a copy of the original paper by clicking on the link in the article.

  9. In response to those who believe circumcision is some sort of barbaric mistreatment of infant boys. The procedure has been successfully performed in the Jewish community for thousands of years. Unlike Muslims, Jewish circumcision is performed when the child is just days old not thirteen. I don't have a problem with the Swedish law because we wouldn't want to cause undo pain to a child by having an unskilled person perform the procedure. Laura Intactivist, you're wrong because it has been proven that circumcision is medically beneficial because by removing the flap of skin, it reduces the risk of bacterial infections from taking place. In the future, try not having your anti-Semitic fangs protrude so prominently.

  10. DanSilagi says:

    Maybe if that comment from the “Circumcision Resource Center” actually came from an anesthesiologist rather than from some idiotic “intactivist” organization, it might carry some credibility. You don’t need a general anesthetic to do a circumcision. Many adults are circumcised, with local anesthesia only, and walk out of the doctor’s office none the worse for wear.

  11. LilianaRogers says:

    Megan, did you actually ever witness a circumcision? I have never seen a baby screaming his head off in pain until passing into shock! I have seen babies crying because they were not held by their moms, but passed from one set of hands to another, cry because they were not swaddled anymore, because of the fuss and noise, but usually most of them calm down when they have a drop of sweet wine dropped on their lips. Have never seen a baby crying after he returns to his mom, a few minutes later. Now, the Muslim circumcisions, on the other hand, that is REAL cruelty – care to comment on those? Or you’re only against the Jewish rituals?


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