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In the context of World Children’s Day 2019, which took place 30 years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international collaboration was set up between a few European organizations aiming for the abandonment of sexual mutilation, to make the voices of children heard in Geneva and Paris. Here is the report of Droit au Corps’s first participation at this international day dedicated to children.
Initially it was the founder of Intact Nederland who had the idea of coordinating the efforts of European organizations to ensure a presence at the conference held at the UN in Geneva. This idea gradually took shape and was extended to UNESCO in Paris.
Geneva, UN, 18-20 November
Two representatives of Pro Kinderrechte Schweiz (PKS) and one from Droit au Corps (DaC) attended the conference along with many other organizations. In total, our two organizations were able to distribute about 1,000 flyers. We had many discussions and received many positive comments. Few people were aware that circumcision of male children can harm them for life and that it is a serious violation of their rights. For the vast majority, the topic was new and they had a complete lack of knowledge about the negative consequences and risks associated with circumcision. No one showed hostility to our cause.
For this occasion, a new French-English flyer was produced with elements taken from the Appeal to open a public debate on the conditions for consent to circumcision.
The representative of an important international association whose mission is to protect children came over to meet us and left his business card with a view to future collaboration.
As an aside, one of the 18 members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, a UN body, confided to one of our members that he agreed with the practice of religious circumcision of children, from the age of 8 days! When choosing the members of such a body, the UN would be well advised in the future to ensure that candidates do not have a conflict of interest regarding sexual mutilation.
Paris, UNESCO, 20 November
During this celebration of the CRC at UNESCO, where French President Emmanuel Macron and Secretary of State for Child Protection Adrien Taquet made speeches, three members of Droit au Corps talked with participants while distributing about 150 flyers. Targeted contacts were established, including a UNESCO education officer. As in Geneva, the reception was positive and without any aggressiveness.
Jacques Toubon, the French Human Rights Defender, even promised us to read the DaC flyer; what will he do about it before the end of his mandate in July 2020? We also pointed out to Geneviève Avenard, the Children’s Defender, the absence of the subject of circumcision during this celebration. Additionally, we pointed out her lack of response to the Appeal to open a public debate. She explained that the topics discussed were chosen by children and that she thought she had already replied to our email.
The head of the UNESCO office in an African country where excision is practiced indicated that her main topic for the coming year would be sexual mutilation, and she was open to discussions with us including the subject of circumcision.
We need to intensify our presence in places where there is a high concentration of actors concerned directly or indirectly with circumcision. This is an excellent way to make a strong impact in a short time, with relatively few resources. Direct contact in person, with uncovered faces, is much more powerful for our interlocutors than written communication on such a taboo subject.