At the beginning of 2014, the Advisory Committee for Bioethics in Belgium received a question from a number of doctors working in the Brussels-Iris Sud group of hospitals. This was on the practice of circumcision amongst boys, when the intervention is not on necessary medical grounds. An ethical sub-committee was created. De Standaard newspaper reported on Saturday that the sub-committee is due to give an opinion on the subject by the end of the year.
The Co-President of this, Robert Rubens, from UGent (the University of Ghent), stresses that it is only an opinion, which will not be binding in law. He said, “We are still discussing the matter, as some sub-committee members consider that freedom of religion should prevail, as circumcision is particularly undertaken amongst Jews and Muslims. Others are very much opposed to this.”
The opinion is likely to be based, in particular, on the conclusions around the issue in the Netherlands. There the federation of doctors (known as the “KNMG”) called upon its members not to practice circumcision, although doing so is not punishable by law. In 2013, the Council of Europe adopted a non-binding resolution advising member states not to allow, on an unconditional basis, the ritual circumcision of children, at least for very young children. Estimates in Belgium indicate that 15% of men are circumcised.