Germany has been in a debate about the ethics of male circumcision. This discussion began when a procedure in Cologne, Germany in 2012 experienced complications and the parents of the effected child sued the doctor and ignited a state-wide controversy. At first, the Cologne courts ruled all male circumcision illegal - regardless of religious importance. This was eventually overturned by the German Bundestag (legislative branch of the German government) which made male circumcision legal for religious purposes before the child ages six months.
Now I'm sure you're wondering why I just made you read an entire paragraph about the German politics of circumcision. I spent my Friday perusing an exhibit at the Jewish Museum Berlin, titled "Snip/it!: Stances on/Ritual/Circumcision", because few things align so perfectly with a course called Politics of Gender. It guides visitors through the Jewish, Christian and Islamic history and significance of the procedure, as well as demonstrates global trends and representation in media. Although this particular topic wouldn't normally draw me in, it was fascinating to start my experience with this class in the middle of an ongoing political controversy.
On the one hand, this topic is affecting the community around me as the restrictions most directly affect people of minority religious affiliation - Judaism and Islam. The outcry from these communities is what caused the initial restructuring of the law, but it still hinders their traditions. For example, in the Islamic tradition circumcision can occur as late as a male's early teen years. It is a sign of a boy becoming a man and in all religious affiliated traditions it is a sign of a connection to God. Especially with protests surrounding immigration (mostly aimed towards people from the Middle East) the idea of restricting religious practices is definitely a sensitive topic.
On a personal level, my experience abroad is being enhanced by the vocal discussion of this issue. I am learning about ongoing German politics, current affairs are being used as a discussion base and learning tool in class and I feel as though I am enhancing my connection to this country by knowing what is going on within it.
Tidbit for future tourists: Since the circumcision exhibit closes March 1, 2015 there's no need to go avoiding this amazing museum. The permanent exhibit masterfully utilizes the architecture of the building to create a unique and impactful commentary on German Jewish history. Definitely a must see.