Circumcision under threat in Tasmania

A REPORT compiled by the Tasmania Law Reform Institute (TLRI) has recommended a ban on non-medical ­circumcision. The 109-page document called for the “enactment of legislation to reform the law governing circumcision”, and the “enactment of a new and separate offence generally prohibiting the circumcision of incapable minors in Tasmania”.

While the report recommends an exemption for “well-established religious or ethnicity motivated circumcision”, it concedes that, “The law cannot completely please both a circumcision abolitionist and an Orthodox Jewish mohel.”

The report continues: “Features of religious and traditional circumcision make the legal proscription of its most widely accepted aspects unlikely, potentially ineffectual and arguably undesirable. Consequently, the Institute is of the view that the law ought to accommodate established religious and ethnic circumcising traditions at the current time.”

Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, who chairs the adhoc Victorian mohelim committee, believes there is still cause for concern despite the stipulation protecting the practice of religious circumcision on incapable minors.

“I was most dismayed to read the final recommendation of the TLRI in relation to legislation around circumcision,” Rabbi Kluwgant said. “It’s more than ironic that in the week that the American Council of Paediatrics reverses their longstanding neutral stance – to now recognise the benefits of routine neonatal circumcision – the Tasmanian Law Commission would have come out with such a high-handed and medically unsupported statement to make the provision of circumcision less accessible and potentially illegal.”

Rabbi Kluwgant said the Rabbinical Council of Victoria made submissions to the TLRI, arguing that the risks associated with circumcision do not outweigh the benefits and taking issue with the report’s “emotive language”.

Under the proposed changes to the legislation, circumcisers could face tough penalties if they fail to meet a strict set of criteria. “The institute recommends the enactment of a criminal law that sets general principles against which to judge the acceptability of a circumciser’s practice.”


Victorian mohelim committee chair Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant.