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Here is the strategy presented by Droit au Corps at the first symposium of the international coalition for the abandonment of sexual mutilation, in May 2020, as part of WWDOGA (Worldwide Day of Genital Autonomy).
- What is our major challenge in the medium term? Muslim circumcision
- The path of compassion
- What advocacy strategy? The Appeal to Open a Public Debate
- Advanced level of the Appeal to Debate strategy: propose to debate 13 yo as the age of consent
- Complementary strategies to the Appeal to Debate: the domino game
- Comparative Effectiveness of “Strength of Law” versus “Path of compassion” Strategies
- Alliance strategy
- Appendix - email to Brian Earp in May 2020
What is our major challenge in the medium term? Muslim circumcision
- Of the 4 segments of circumcision - medical, Muslim, ancestral, Jewish -, Muslim circumcision is the major challenge in the medium term because it is numerically the majority, geographically the most widespread and it tends to expand. Moreover, contrary to the typically African ancestral circumcision, it has a hierarchical international coordination network (with religious leaders) which makes it stronger organizationally, within the framework of a true feeling of belonging to a community (the Hummah).
- The strategic framework to approach Muslim circumcision can only be planetary, the Muslim populations resulting from migrations being added to the populations of the vast lands of Islam.
- It is unrealistic to think that Muslims will abandon circumcision under the pressure of a global ban, with UN peacekeepers landing in Mecca.
- Action / reaction :
- The use of force (of the Rights) would lead to a hardening of the defense of circumcision by Muslims, it would be counterproductive and would aggravate tensions between Muslims and the rest of the world (cartoons of Mohammed, wearing of the veil, terrorism…).
- A culture buried by force would rise from its ashes at the first opportunity, the abandonment of circumcision would not be deep and lasting.
- Is there another strategy for Muslim circumcision than the awakening of consciences?
The path of compassion
- Let’s start at the beginning: why do we want to end sexual mutilation?
- Because we give priority to the alleviation of suffering.
- This is what ethical philosophy calls algoprioritarism.
- With this starting point, the nocircs strategy becomes obvious: it is “the path of compassion”, to reduce as much suffering as possible.
- The particularity of this approach is to be inclusive:
- the nocircs find themselves obliged to take into account the fears and suffering of the threatened procircs in their traditions.
- Moreover, one must accept to push this ethical logic to its conclusion, however destabilizing it may be: if the sufferings generated by the fight against circumcision turned out to be worse than the sufferings generated by circumcision, then the nocircs would have to give up their fight!
- A major cultural change always involves suffering for those threatened by the change:
- A change is all the easier to bring about if efforts are made to reduce this suffering, which is an obstacle to change.
- For example, it is not easy to give up eating meat overnight even when you are aware of the astronomical amount of animal suffering it causes. Isn’t it much easier to give up carnism if there is a whole range of tasty, cheaper, and much healthier plant-based foods available, and if this vegan option is accessible everywhere?
- Since the path of compassion involves taking into account the sufferings of the procircs in order to reduce them as much as possible, it has the consequence of making it a very effective strategy in terms of reducing the obstacles to change.
What advocacy strategy? The Appeal to Open a Public Debate
- Which claim can be defended by the nocircs at the world level as well as at the local level, compatible with each segment of circumcision and that makes it possible to widen the communication and the awakening of the consciences with the passing of years?
- The ideal demand is the “Appeal to open a public debate on the conditions for consent to circumcision”.
- This claim must be based on the slogan that “Circumcision can cause severe, lifelong suffering, even if not all circumcision leads to suffering.”
- This slogan has immense advantages, first of all to be unquestionable even by procircs, and to awaken consciences without stigmatizing the circumcised (let us avoid them the double punishment, such as the use of the expression sexual “mutilation” which devalues them in addition to being a victim of circumcision).
- Why is this claim “ideal”?
- no one can go against such a claim, on the contrary to refuse the debate would be frowned upon and disqualifying
- it is possible to keep pushing this demand, year after year, as long as the debate is not open
- behind this claim, it is possible to communicate more and more widely on the sufferings linked to circumcision, book after book, TV program after TV program, colloquium after colloquium…
- this claim encompasses all segments of circumcision, cultural or “medical” (unlike a compartmentalized claim such as the only prohibition of ritual circumcision)
- this claim is much more precise than the classic claims of “right to physical integrity” or “genital autonomy”: since “genital autonomy” is primarily a matter of consent, then it is appropriate to focus on the specific “conditions” of such consent. It is well known to what extent consent to circumcision is not properly informed nowadays all over the world
- this demand is not a closed proposal but remains open to different issues, including the age of consent to circumcision. This avoids giving the feeling that the nocircs believe they are the holders of “the truth”, but shows that they rely on the consideration of all points of view in the debate, the only source of legitimacy in a democracy
- this demand is consistent with long-standing actions against female “genital” mutilation, such as a ban at any age, as opposed to a demand for a ban on ritual circumcision before the age of 18, which would conflict with the abolitionist approach to female genital mutilation and be legally discriminatory
- this demand puts everyone around the table, including the advocates of the best interests of the child, who are much more politically powerful compared to the nocircs lilliputians, but also lay people, feminists and many others.
- the public and private signatories of such a permanent Appeal makes it possible, over the years, to build up a vast network of sympathisers all over the planet and well beyond the nocircs: this network can be mobilised for other actions from one year to the next, in circles that are constantly widening over time
- The “lateral project strategy” is a proven technique for driving difficult changes, which has been taught for some decades in business schools, but which can be used for large-scale social change. The main principles are as follows:
- those who want change should devote their energies to pampering the “lateral allies” of their project, so that their own resources can be added up and form a mass
- it is impossible to convince “opponents” of a change to support it, so don’t bother to discuss it with them, as they will not facilitate the change
- change comes first from “lateral allies” thanks to the mobilisation of their own networks, which are much more powerful than those of the initiator of the project
- a change in society only occurs when the large mass of “passive persons” have changed their mind: it is the actions of the “lateral allies” that will gradually tip over this silent majority
- when the passive persons have changed their mind, the change is irresistible, opponents can no longer prevent it
- What are the “lateral allies” of the nocircs, who should be pampered? in order of importance and influence:
- feminists and more generally actors positioned on “gender” oppressions
- kiddists, that is, those who are in charge of the child’s best interests
- the laity: atheists, rationalists, humanists, sceptics, etc.
- Rights and Equality advocates
- the health professions
- the intelligentsia and politics
- the animal cause: think of the hundreds of millions of animals castrated without anesthetics annually in intensive farming!
- the actors in the fight against violence: sexual, educational…
- organizations fighting against FGM
- generally speaking, algoprioritarian organizations in one way or another: altruism, compassion, etc.
- the “ex”: Muslims, Jews, Christians
- organizations fighting against intersex (and transgender) sexual mutilation
- The test carried out by Droit au Corps in 2019, with a Appeal for Debate focused on the French government alone, demonstrated the potential of such a strategy.
- the impressive diversity of the public signatories gives a foretaste of what the vast network of “lateral allies” of the nocirc cause could be like
- private signatories come from more than sixty countries, including countries where the practice is highly developed (USA, lands of Islam, Israel, Africa)
- if such a consensual Appeal was promoted by all the nocircs on the entire planet in the next 10 years, rather than only by Droit au Corps, how many millions of signatories, how much awareness raising through this channel, how many articles in the media, how many radio broadcasts, how many lateral allies on board who will relay the Appeal in their own networks?
Advanced level of the Appeal to Debate strategy: propose to debate 13 yo as the age of consent
- How can we succeed in including procircs in this perspective of great debate? How can we ensure that they do not close themselves off from the outset and reject the very idea?
- in order for procircs to accept to take an interest in the Appeal for Debate and to reflect internally on the evolution of their practices, a win-win situation must be proposed, a perspective that allows them to come out with their heads held high, a creative solution that will alleviate a maximum of suffering even if it does not correspond to the absolutist ideal of the nocircs who aim to abolish circumcision on the model of FGM.
- the policy initiated by the WHO in 2007, of voluntary circumcision capable of reducing the risk of HIV infection is an unhoped-for opportunity to establish such a win-win situation, making it possible to put on the table for discussion a solution that is different from the abolitionism obtained with respect to FGM, but without illegitimate discrimination
- How can we succeed in including procircs in this perspective of great debate? How can we ensure that they do not close themselves off from the outset and reject the very idea?
- The crucial issue of the age of consent: the very particular age of 13 years old
- Droit au Corps does not particularly wish 13 years to become the age of consent to circumcision, nor probably any nocirc, but one must be obliged to take into account all the parameters of this complex equation that is circumcision if one wants to find the narrow path leading to the abandonment of this practice:
- 13 is an acceptable age for Judaism for 2 reasons:
- it is theologically accepted that circumcision should be delayed after 8 days if there is a risk to the baby’s health, and it is nowadays accepted that the risk is great
- 13 years is the age of Bar Mitzvah, where the obligation to observe the religious commandments passes from father to son, including the obligation of circumcision.
- 13 is the age of Ishmael at the time of his circumcision: it so happens that Muslims recognize themselves from this descent of Abraham.
- 13 is the age of first sexual relations in the West (at least for 5% of young people in countries such as Canada or France). As long as the governments will continue to support the WHO in its policy of circumcision against the HIV, how will they be able to oppose that a young person of 13 years can resort to this “medical” means of reducing its own risk of infection by the HIV?
- Female genital “cosmetic surgery” is allowed for adolescent girls in many countries that have banned FGM, which allows the passage to question the hypocrisy of this practice contested by those involved in the fight against FGM. For what reason would one have the right to prohibit an adolescent boy from resorting to “cosmetic surgery” such as circumcision when an adolescent girl is already entitled to it?
- Should it be the nocircs who propose to introduce the age of 13 into the debates, or is it better not to talk about it?
- Yes, it is strategic that it is the nocircs who talk about it first:
- tactically, since these parameters of the equation are likely to come up on the table at some point in the future, it is best for the nocircs to take the lead as a gesture of goodwill, and especially to pose the problem in the most judicious way possible
- if it is the nocircs who put forward this solution of good will, their attitude is irreproachable and likely to win the sympathy of public opinion
- pointing out this compromise solution from the outset makes it all the more difficult for Muslims or Jews to refuse to sit down at the table: what are their reasons for not doing so? And if they nevertheless adopt the policy of the empty chair, this would not be favourable to their image in public opinion and with the public authorities.
- Nowadays at 13 years old, a young person anywhere in the world probably has the opportunity to learn, either on the Net or from his friends or cousins, the harms related to circumcision, especially about sexuality which becomes a major issue for him at this age. If the group tries to put pressure to impose its religion on him, it is the religion itself which is threatened to disappear, in 1 or 2 generations.
- Yes, it is strategic that it is the nocircs who talk about it first:
Complementary strategies to the Appeal to Debate: the domino game
- Treat each of the 4 main segments of circumcision: medical, Muslim, ancestral (mirroring FGM), Jewish, etc.
- the tactical priority is to take down the medical “domino” that serves as an alibi for the other 3 segments.
- the medical domino has 3 main facets: “phimosis” in Europe, neonatal in the USA, HIV with WHO
- Bringing down the medical domino “phimosis” in Europe: Droit au Corps has put together a very thorough scientific dossier on the health of the penis which opens up the prospect that the circumcision of children would never be necessary from a medical point of view.
- this result makes it possible to claim the suppression of the public financing of the pseudo-medical circumcision: this is what a first international campaign is doing as of 2020 (open letter COVID-19 reusable country by country by all the organizations nocircs)
- this dossier can be taken up and translated by all the nocirc organizations on the planet to push the same demand
- at the same time demand a penis health training plan
- Bringing down the medical domino of neonatal circumcision in the USA: our American colleagues are working on it, cheer up!
- Bringing down the WHO-HIV medical domino: setting up a class action suit for its African victims by targeting the weak points of its massive campaign
- the lack of consent is blatant
- the recommendation of neonatal circumcision as “less risky” is obviously biased, if only because there are no statistics on deaths related to neonatal circumcision: the recent disengagement of PEPFAR is a timely piece of evidence
- a class action is very motivating for Africans given the financial amounts of compensation that can be envisaged: it is an opportunity to bring together Africans and their representative organisations on a large scale
- To treat the 4 large segments of circumcision: ancestral
- to set up joint fe/male circumcision prevention plans as immediate practical work for ICASM
- makes it possible to link the nocirc cause to the highly developed institutional system that is the fight against FGM: the procircs will find it increasingly difficult to separate the fight against excision from that against circumcision.
- To treat the 4 large segments of circumcision: Jewish
- counting on internal developments: for example the symposium 2015 organized in defense of the Jewish circumcision was paradoxically devastating for the 8-day circumcision
- since circumcision is dangerous for the baby’s health, Judaism provides that it should be postponed: Brit Shalom at 8 days and Brit Milah at the age of consent?
- To treat the 4 large segments of circumcision: Muslim
- communicate about suffering, including the degradation of sexual potential, by gradually broadening the channels of communication
- support nocirc networks from populations of Muslim culture
- welcome experts from the Muslim culture to advise the nocircs (Mohamed Fahmy for example!)
Comparative Effectiveness of “Strength of Law” versus “Path of compassion” Strategies
- See attached the email sent to Brian Earp in May 2020
- Nocirc’s high-risk strategy: all on the “strength of law”
- questionable “right to physical integrity”, which does not even exist in world law: are nocircs really opposed to the education of the youngest, which nevertheless leads to a physical modification of their brains, an attack on their “physical integrity” not consented to and without medical reason?
- questionable absolutist “right to dispose of one’s body”: do the nocirc really want to alienate feminists who fight fiercely to abolish prostitution, even if freely consented to? or those who fight against the harmful street drugs, against “autonomy” over one’s own body?
- questionable “rights of the child”: the 1989 International Convention on the Rights of the Child, wanting to do the right thing, nevertheless confirmed the legal “minority” of the youngest, which allows them to be forcibly circumcised. Isn’t there anything better to do?
- What legal strategy for the future? This topic could be developed at another symposium.
- Following the example of feminists who succeeded in putting an end to the “legal minority” of women in the West after two centuries of struggle, the nocircs should aim at putting an end to discrimination against the youngest by putting an end to their “legal minority”, which would radically put an end to forced circumcision: this equality of rights without arbitrary age is precisely the objective of kiddism.
- To put an end to the 1948 Jewish-Christian hold-up on fundamental rights, by promoting a progressive rewriting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, from which the rest of the legal architecture is derived country by country. For example, the right to found a “family” specifies in Article 26 that “Parents have, as a matter of priority, the right to choose the kind of education to give to their children”, confirming the rights of one category of citizens - the parents - over another category of citizens - the children -, opening the door to forced circumcision of one by the other.
- Some aspects of the nocirc strategy, such as the ambitious legal strategy, are impossible to implement without alliances.
- as a first step, develop ICASM to unite the 4 types of sexual mutilation: female, male, intersex and even transgender (many countries force transgender people to be sterilized in order to obtain a medicalized sex change)
- as a second step, to bring together the “lateral allies” (feminists, kiddists, lay people…), via an Appeal for Debate extended to the whole world
- as a target, to promote the broadest possible and politically powerful algoprioritarian union by joining the Algosphere Alliance
- Advanced level of the Path of compassion
- When a child pinches his fingers in a door, he sometimes kicks it angrily: it seems irrational to us!
- To be effective in the fight against the circumcision, it is necessary to give up the rage against the procircs, not to be in the aggressiveness and the confrontation but only in the search for solutions, in the benevolence and in a sincerely inclusive approach of their concerns:
- Yes, the prohibition of 8-day circumcision can be experienced as a foreshadow of the return of the Shoah for the Jews, as circumcision is at the foundation of this religion-ethnicity that is Judaism. To threaten circumcision is to threaten the survival of the People itself, it can be experienced as a genocidal threat, we must understand this existential anguish: end of circumcision > end of Judaism > end of the Jewish People.
- In order to achieve maximum efficiency in the “path of compassion”, one must understand the illusion of the ego and therefore the illusion of free will, two scientific discoveries which are quite recent in the West. Understanding the illusion of free will allows one to convince oneself that the door has not “chosen” to pinch my fingers and that there is no point in kicking it back, or to understand that procircists never “decide” to circumcise and that one should therefore not hate them for doing it.
- Understanding the illusion of the ego is essential to include procircs in the sphere of our benevolence, with a view to a collaboration of all for a maximum alleviation of suffering.
- What’s the outlook for ICASM?
- 2020 - to develop a strategic framework valid worldwide, with a view to the abandonment of circumcision
- 2021 - develop synergies between the local strategies of each organization and the global strategy
- 2021 - develop joint actions among several ICASM members, for example joint plans for the prevention of fe/male circumcision
Appendix - email to Brian Earp in May 2020
Comparative effectiveness of the two strategies “force of law” versus “path of compassion”
A profound societal change, such as the cessation of tobacco use or circumcision, will meet with less resistance the less the suffering caused by the change. Algoprioritarism, or more voluntarist and attentive to the needs of others “the way of compassion”, is thus particularly effective in terms of change management since it encourages the search for solutions in this sense. Indeed, contrary to the force of law approach, opting for compassion encourages the nocirc to invent solutions to reduce the sufferings of the procirc who feel threatened in their traditions, even in their very survival as a People (the case of the Jews for whom circumcision on the 8th day is the foundation of their ethnic-religion). In the end, a change guided by compassion will lead to less suffering if the nocirc try to impose their point of view by force, in this case the force of law, whether it be “the right to physical integrity” (which to my knowledge does not exist in current world international law, but only in European law) or “the rights of children” (which in 1989 confirmed the domination of adults over the youngest, instead of putting an end to it by pure and simple equality in law whatever the age of the individual): see the kiddism section of the DaC’s Appeal to Debate press kit).
While the force of law approach is a logic of confrontation between two forces that are placed in a rather violent opposition, procirc versus nocirc, on the contrary, the path of compassion brings these two forces together since their interest is to reduce suffering as much as possible:
- To preserve their traditions, procircs will try to reduce the suffering of circumcised people, for example by using anaesthesia for neonatal circumcision, which would be a major step forward while waiting for this practice to be abandoned, given the particularly intense pain that babies are victims of, and has been for millennia!
- The nocirc will have to make an effort to find solutions to reduce the suffering of the procirc on the road to abandonment, for example by inventing alternative rituals such as Brit Shalom, or economic conversion plans for excisers, or the electronic cigarette for smokers.
With the path of compassion, we are in a process of collaboration between procirc and nocirc, at the antipodes of conflict, which is more likely to reduce the obstacles to change (on the part of procirc but also of nocirc who must agree to take a step towards procirc).
Since the major challenge of nocirc in the medium term is Muslim circumcision (in the land of Islam and in the West), it is worth avoiding at all costs a logic of confrontation, but opting radically for a logic of persuasion. If circumcision is abandoned momentarily under duress, it will flourish again at the first opportunity: we are condemned to a demanding work of in-depth persuasion to be lasting. Moreover, it is adventurous to believe that one can hold a consistent double language:
- to put an end to circumcision in the West, to claim “rights” while knowingly ignoring the argument of suffering,
- to contradict this discourse when communicating with Muslims on the persuasive register of suffering, at a time of extreme globalization of communication and because of the Muslim populations that bridge the gap between the lands of Islam and the West. […]