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November 9, 2020 2:54 pm

Finnish Jews Relieved After Legislation Targeting Female Mutilation Exempts Circumcision of Males

avatar by Ben Cohen

A brit milah ceremony in which an eight-day-old Jewish male is circumcised. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

New legislation passed by Finland’s parliament proscribing the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) will not include measures restricting the circumcision of boys, allaying earlier fears to the contrary expressed by the country’s Jewish community.

In a vote last Friday, Finnish legislators voted by a margin of 141 to 10 in favor of making an already-existing ban on FGM — sometimes known as “female circumcision” — more explicit, by outlining the punishments for violators under Finnish criminal law.

However, according to the Helsinki news outlet Helsingin Sanomat, “the fiercest exchange” in the parliamentary debate concerned the subsidiary issue of male circumcision, following a parliamentary committee’s recommendation of further “regulation” of the practice.

Two of the parliamentarians — Antero Laukkanen and Eva Biaudet — voiced anger that a comparison between the circumcision of boys, a ceremony performed eight days after birth in the Jewish tradition, was even being made with FGM, in which young girls and women are often permanently scarred by improvised operations that they are forced into.

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“I regret equating the circumcision of boys with this brutal mutilation, which is what we are concerned with,” another parliamentarian, Ben Zyskowicz, said.

One far-right MP advocating a ban on the circumcision of boys invoked restrictions on dog-grooming in order to make his argument.

“It is incomprehensible to think that trimming dogs’ tails was banned as early as 1996, but the foreskin of the boy’s genitals may be shortened or completely cut off in 2020,” Sebastian Tynkkynen, of the ultranationalist True Finns Party, declared.

In a statement on Monday, the head of Finland’s small Jewish community of under 2,000 expressed relief at the news that male circumcision would remain legal, warmly thanking Jewish leaders in the United Kingdom for providing assistance with lobbying and representation to the Finnish government.

“We thank Milah UK and the Board of Deputies of British Jews for their support during this anxious episode for the Finnish Jewish community,” Yaron Nadbornik — president of the Central Council of Finnish Jewish Communities — said. “The support of international partners has helped ensure a way forward for us to work towards securing our religious freedom for now.”

Nadbornik warned that “there continues to be a small campaign in Finland to ban male circumcision.”

He added that “Milah UK and the Board of Deputies will continue to be in contact with the Finnish Jewish community to ensure all appropriate support is available.”

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