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Appeal to open a public debate on the conditions for consent to circumcision : Press kit

Press kit

APPEAL To open a public debate on the conditions for consent to circumcision

Warning : this additional documentation does not in any way engage the signatories of the Appeal. Neither is it the collective position of Droit au Corps. Its purpose is to provide deeper information about parts of the Appeal, as well as points for reflection that can feed the public debate. The elements contained in this dossier are given for information only : they are forward-thinking and do not necessarily reflect the views of all members of Droit au Corps. If the reader wishes to go further in studying the references in the Appeal, they can contact Droit au Corps.

Summary :

1 - Circumcision and suffering : from ignorance to denial
2 - The American culture of circumcision of newborns taking over the whole world
3 - In France : internal refugees
4 - From “freedom of religion” to “freedom to coerce”
5 - A global consensus within reach on the age of consent to circumcision

 

1 - Circumcision and suffering : from ignorance to denial

 

2 - The American culture of circumcision of newborns taking over the whole world

 

3 - In France : internal refugees

 

4 - From “freedom of religion” to “freedom to coerce”

 

5 - A global consensus within reach on the age of consent to circumcision

Public debate

In a situation where everyone might be persuaded that they hold the truth about the age of consent to circumcision, without having taken the time to listen to others’ arguments, we believe that a dialogue between the views of all parties is the only way to achieve a consensus, based on the best arguments, a balance point that can alleviate the maximum amount of suffering.

Within the Droit au Corps collective, there is no consensus on the question of the age of consent, and the association has never published an official position on this matter. Some members believe that non-medical circumcision should be prohibited regardless of age, along the lines of female sexual mutilation. Others think that we should wait until a man has had “sufficient” sexual experience, which does not correspond to the same age for all individuals, with a minimum age of 25 or even 30. Others believe that the voting or driving age would be relevant, because it is an age that legally distinguishes a child from an adult, these days often set at 18. For Droit au Corps, whose ethics give priority to the alleviation of suffering, it is ultimately the overall amount of suffering saved by the choice of this or that age that should be the criterion for the decision. It is therefore not so much a theoretically perfect age seen only from the individual’s point of view, but an age that is socially compatible with traditions that are deeply rooted in the culture of many countries for centuries or even millennia. The question of the age of consent is a subject that requires “putting oneself in the shoes” of each of the parties to the debate, if a positive outcome is to be found at the international level. For the time being, it must be noted that all attempts to prohibit circumcision before the age of 18 in countries where this practice is not a major culturally rooted tradition - 2012 Germany, 2013 Council of Europe, 2018 Denmark and Iceland - led to conflicts and failures : do we imagine that prohibition campaigns will be more successful in countries with a strong tradition or even where circumcision is central ? If we want to succeed in reaching an agreement one day, globally and not just in a few countries, we will have to look at the age of 13, which has many particularities that make it an option that is also worth discussing.

Here are some arguments to be taken into account, centred on 2 reference ages for circumcision, 13 and 18. This argumentation is far from exhaustive and presents only original, even counter-intuitive and forward-thinking aspects, rarely mentioned in debates on circumcision.

 

13 years old

The facts :

  • Health : There are studies recognized by the World Health Organization that suggest that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection from woman to man in the case of vaginal penetration. Although controversial, these studies make it questionable to prohibit this option for individuals at an age to have such relationships (which a significant number of young people explore from the age of 13 according to available statistics).
  • Legislation : from the age of 13, a young person is considered sufficiently responsible for his or her actions to be put in prison (in France).
  • Islam : Ishmael, Abraham’s son, was 13 years old when he was circumcised according to the Bible, whereas circumcision is not included in the Koran and is not a condition for becoming a Muslim.
  • Judaism : Bar Mitzvah is practiced at age 13. This is the age at which the young person is able to apply the religious commandments himself. At this age, the obligation to circumcise passes from father to son. For its part, the symposium on the future of circumcision, organized in 2015 by the Association of Jewish Doctors of France and the United Jewish Social Fund, provided an opportunity to recognize that circumcision of newborns causes inevitable pain and risks of complications, and that it must be deferred in certain situations.
  • Legislation : In different countries, female “cosmetic surgery” is legal and adolescent girls can make use it, although it seems to be included in the most recent WHO definition of female sexual mutilation. What conclusion should be drawn from such inconsistency between excision, which is stigmatized by public opinion in Western countries and many other countries around the world as “barbaric”, existing in parallel with storefrontaesthetic” surgery ? Especially since the age of consent for cosmetic sexual surgery differs from country to country. In the case of “Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery” (FGSC), Canadian courts have rejected the notion of “age of majority” to define the age at which a person is able to give consent : “The Common Law recognizes the mature minor as a person who is able to understand the nature and consequences of the proposed treatment. When a minor is considered “mature”, parental consent is not required for FGSC interventions.”

 

Arguments :

  • At 13 years of age, one does not have enough knowledge and experience about sexuality to be able to make the decision to be circumcised in an “informed” way.
If minors can legally resort to abortion, it is because society considers them in a position to give free and informed consent, regardless of their age, when it is also an irreversible decision that involves one’s very sexuality. It is up to the public authorities to set up an institutional consent process that guarantees as best as possible that it is “informed”: information in sex education courses throughout schooling, specific information prior to the act, for example, on the model of the consent process for contraceptive sterilization, which includes a reflection period of several months, etc.

 

  • At 13 years of age, a young person may not have the “freedom” to resist pressure from the group he belongs to.

What is certain is that a young person is more likely to do what he wants with his penis if he has the legal possibility of saying “no” to a circumcision, compared to the current situation where he undergoes the removal of his foreskin even if he is against it or too young to be able to express his disagreement. It is up to the public authorities to set up an institutional consent process that guarantees as best as possible that it is “free”: the confidential obtaining of consent, a withdrawal period and safeguarding of this option, the possibility, as with the risk of forced marriage, to be able to escape family pressure, etc.

As for the objection of those who oppose an age of consent as early as 13 years of age, according to which religions could exert pressure on young people of that age to be circumcised, it is implausible. Indeed, given the knowledge that a young person can easily obtain nowadays, if only through the Internet, and with sexuality issues becoming very sensitive at this age, the risk would be a rapid decline of these religions within 1 or 2 generations. Especially since, nowadays, young people who do not have sufficient information in their country on the consequences of circumcision are probably in at least some degree of contact with migrants who have long established communication bridges with “cousins” of the same generation. These international gateways will necessarily lead to a mixing of cultures that will protect the world community from border conflicts over circumcision.

 

18 years old

The facts :

  • The civil majority corresponds to an age that varies arbitrarily over time and by country : often 18 nowadays, but not exclusively, and sometimes different for males and females (in Algeria 19 for men and 20 for women), often 21 in the past, 25 or even older. The legal majority is a threshold that has long established the domination of the oldest over the youngest, depriving young people of fundamental rights as a result of this “minority” status, as was largely the case for women before the 20th century, a very recent stage in which male domination began seriously to crumble. The best recent book on the subject is undoubtedly La Domination adulte, l’oppression des mineurs by Yves Bonnardel, from 2015.

This discrimination, which can be described as “ageism”, is, like “racism”, contrary to the principle of equality of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although in 2000 the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union made explicit the prohibition of any discrimination on the grounds of age (Chapter III, “Equality”, Article 21), the community remains deaf to it : “Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic characteristics, language, religion or beliefs, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation is prohibited.” This discrimination makes it possible, in particular, to exclude the youngest children from the community’s decision-making process when it is based on elections, as did women until 1971 in Switzerland. A very significant example of the conflict between the ideology of reproduction and the alleviation of suffering, most countries that have legalized assisted suicide have had the immediate reflex of depriving “minors” of the right ; it is only after a few years that the same countries have understood that this discrimination in the face of suffering is untenable and put an end to it (minors suffering from cancer, etc).

The legal minority” is a concept that has made it possible to culturally create two classes that are strictly compartmentalized by an age barrier, with roles based on social scripts unrelated to the biological reality of human development : “children” and “adults”. The legal concept of the “child”, which makes it possible to establish this domination, has been reinforced since the title of the 1989 International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC): “Article 1 - For the purposes of this Convention, a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years, unless majority is attained earlier under the legislation applicable to it.” Here are some historical markers of this domination of adults over children, a domination that contributes to the normalization of this violence by one individual to another that is circumcision :

 

Hammurabi Code - The son who hit his father has his hand cut off. The son of a prostitute who said to his adopted father : “You are not my father!” has his tongue ripped out (Le Monde).

Bible - Decalogue - Exodus 19:18 “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be prolonged on this earth”

Bible - Exodus - Moses - Code of the Covenant, Ex 21 “He who strikes his father or mother shall be put to death… Whoever curses his father or mother shall be put to death. ”

Classic of filial piety “one of the Chinese classics. It was probably written in the third century BC […] is attributed to Zeng Zi […], a disciple of Confucius. At the beginning of the common era (Han dynasty), Emperor Wang Mang wanted to make it the reference work for the training of civil servants […] He set out in eighteen dialogues the duties between people according to hierarchy : prince and minister, power and people, parents and children, each case referring to the relationship between father and son and summarized in the Confucian expression of filial piety” (Wikipedia)

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Abrégé, Paris, co-published by Bayard Éditions, Les Éditions du Cerf, Éditions Fleurus-Mame, 2005

The fourth commandment : Honor your father and mother

  • 455. What does the fourth commandment command ? It commands us to honour and respect our parents and those whom God has empowered for our good.
  • 459. What are the children’s duties towards their parents ? Children owe respect (filial piety), recognition, submissiveness and obedience to their parents.

French Civil Code still in 2019 - Chapter I : Parental authority over the person of the child

Article 371 - “A child, at any age, shall honour and respect his father and mother. ”

 

According to the principle of equality, the objective of “kiddism” is to put an end to this discriminatory threshold of age, which gives power to some (adults) over others (children), such as the right to sexually mutilate boys, when everyone would consider it unacceptable for an adult to circumcise another non-consenting adult. The debate on circumcision should not be an opportunity to amplify the scope of this “legal minority” but on the contrary an opportunity to denounce it. “Kiddism” is the next major step towards the liberation of about 50% of humanity (the youngest), after the stage of “feminism” which put an end to the ancient “legal minority” of women, or about 1/4 of humanity if we exclude the “minors” who are still not liberated.

 

Note : The neologism “kiddism” is formulated in English, a language in which the word “kid” has a double meaning, child or joking. This second meaning is important, as it invites the reader to question the concept of the child, to consider it not as a “natural” category but as a social construction, as a “gender”, that is, as a social assignment to a certain type of role, just as the female/male genders of a socially constructed binarity have long forced the sexual mutilation of intersex children to force them into one of these two social and legal categories. This double meaning takes very seriously the issue of the emancipation of the youngest, while “joking” about the concept of the child in order to prevent from the outset that we will not be caught in the naturalizing trap, in the artificial construction of the ageist child / adult genres.

For more details see the appendix on kiddism on page 81s.

 

Arguments :

  • 18 years is a totally arbitrary age for circumcision, a simple application of contemporary legal reference, a reference that changes over the centuries regardless of human anatomy. It is an age that ignores the place of circumcision in all societies that practice it, whether motivated by health reasons, cultural tradition or personal interest. Insistence on this age puts an end to any possibility of a dialogue aimed at finding the right balance between the parties, which would alleviate as much suffering as possible in the world. To demand the prohibition of circumcision without a medical reason would inevitably result in a strengthening of identity on the part of the populations for whom it is a tradition that binds the community, whereas a consensus would be so easy to set in motion by putting everyone around a table. Do we want more concrete suffering in the name of grand, abstract, unstable and questionable principles ?
  • We don’t govern by laws and decrees. The law must be limited to codifying and ratifying customs and morals. Custom results from social, industrial and economic needs. Jurisprudence defines them. The law validates it.” Gustave Le Bon

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