A ruling by a Cologne regional court in the spring of 2012 set off a fierce debate over the Jewish and Muslim ritual of circumcision. The court decided that non-medical circumcision amounted to bodily harm. Both supporters and critics of the practice discussed the issue at length on television and op-ed pages, employing both medical and ethical arguments. The main question remained: how to reconcile freedom of religion and parents' rights to choose how to raise their children on the one hand, with the children's well-being on the other.
A law was passed that was meant to answer that question. Paragraph 1631d of the code of civil law declared that the circumcision of a male child is legal and must be done in accordance with "the rules of the medical profession" - as safely as possible and with appropriate and effective pain relief. Parents need to be informed of the procedure's potential risks, it must not pose a danger to the child's well-being, and the wishes of children old enough to express them also need to be taken into account. Representatives of Germany's Jewish and Muslim communities said they were satisfied with these conditions.