Jewish and Muslim organizations in Germany have staged a joint protest in Berlin over a regional court’s ruling that the circumcision of young boys constituted bodily harm.
The protest was prompted by the news that a rabbi in Bavaria was being investigated over the practice.
The ruling on circumcision was handed down by a court in Cologne in June.
However, the German government has since announced it will legislate to explicitly legalize the practice.
Jewish and Muslim organizations in Germany have staged a joint protest in Berlin over a regional court's ruling that the circumcision of young boys constituted bodily harm
About a thousand people joined the protest to hear speeches from the chief rabbi of Berlin and other religious leaders.
“I’m here to stand for the freedom of religious rights,” said protester Fereshta Ludin.
The court in Cologne had declared that the ritual circumcision of a Muslim boy, in accordance with his parents’ faith, had caused the child bodily harm.
The German Medical Association then told doctors across the country to stop performing the procedure.
Both Jews and Muslims feel that, whatever the court intended, the ruling will be used as a way of attacking their religions.
On Wednesday, the state government in Berlin announced that circumcision was legal there, as long as it was properly carried out.
The federal government, perhaps in response to international condemnation, has also said it wants to legalize the procedure explicitly.
There has also been renewed debate over the practice in the US, one of the countries where it is most prevalent.
Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a review of scientific evidence on the circumcision, saying that “the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks of the procedure”.
However, the AAP added it did not recommend it for all newborn boys, saying the decision was best left to parents, in consultation with doctors.
At least 10 Zimbabwean MP have been circumcised as part of a campaign to reduce HIV and AIDS cases.
A small makeshift clinic for carrying out the procedures was erected in Parliament House in the capital Harare.
Blessing Chebundo, chairman of Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against AIDS, said his main objective was to inspire other citizens to follow suit.
Research by the UN has suggested male circumcision can reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS.
A report by UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the risk of HIV infection among men could be reduced by 60%.
More than a million people in Zimbabwe are believed to be HIV-positive, with about 500,000 receiving anti-retroviral treatment.
The country was one of 13 African states identified in 2007 as a priority for the development of male circumcision programmes by the WHO and UNAIDS.
At least 10 Zimbabwean MP have been circumcised as part of a campaign to reduce HIV and AIDS cases
Blessing Chebundo said more than 120 MPs and parliamentary staff had shown an interest in the circumcision programme.
At least 10 MPs and 13 other people had the procedure performed.
Blessing Chebundo was the first to undergo the 10-minute operation.
He said there was a possibility that some members of the executive may also attend, including President Robert Mugabe.
The circumcision programme had attracted a lot of attention in Zimbabwe, and had divided opinion.
The issue was raised in parliament in September 2011, when Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe made a plea to her fellow politicians.
At the time, many MPs shunned the idea.
As well as a clinic in parliament, the initiative has seen a tent set up across the road from parliament, where counselling sessions will be held.
Dr. Owen Mugurungi, Director for AIDS and TB unit with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, applauded those involved, the Zimbabwe Mail reported.
“We are happy with this initiative and we are happy more leaders will come on board,” he was quoted as saying.
How circumcision may protect against HIV infection?
Specific cells in the foreskin are thought to be potential targets for HIV infection. Following circumcision, the skin under the foreskin becomes less sensitive and is less likely to bleed, reducing the risk of infection.
When AIDS first began to emerge in Africa, researchers noted that men who were circumcised seemed to be less at risk of infection, but the reasons were unclear.
Trials suggest that male circumcision could reduce the risk of HIV infection, acquired through heterosexual intercourse, by up to 60%.
The WHO says the practice is particularly effective in countries with high HIV rates.
But it is not the whole solution. Promoting safe sex, providing people with HIV testing services and encouraging the use of male and female condoms are all seen as equally important.
Some experts also say there is a danger in sending out a message that circumcision can protect against HIV because it could lead to an increase in unprotected sex.