Comparative Politics

Comparative Politics of Circumcision Bans in Western Europe: A Causal Narrative

Sener Akturk Koç University
Between 2012 and 2018, a wave of attempts to prohibit the circumcision of infant males swept across German-speaking and Scandinavian polities, from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland (all in 2012), to Sweden (2013-2018), Denmark (2016-2018), Norway (2017), and finally Iceland (2018), where it came closest to being approved by the parliament. This article develops a causal narrative of those attempts, highlighting the key actors and the chronology of their involvement in the attempts to prohibit circumcision. First, medical and/or legal professionals advocated prohibition, which was then politicized by the far right (and/or secularist left) parties, and once the issue became politically salient, public opinion polls demonstrated significant support for prohibition. The politicized demand for prohibition forced the national legislature to debate the issue. In the meantime, international Jewish and Muslim organizations campaigned against prohibition, which finally provoked the national executives and/or political party leaders to intervene to stop the prohibitionist attempt.