When Bill and Melinda Gates take the stage on Tuesday evening (March 18) at Vancouver's first TED conference, there will be a small group of protesters outside.
A bunch of activists calling themselves the Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project plan to speak out against the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's funding of male circumcision as part of HIV/AIDS efforts in Africa.
CAN-FAP founder Glen Callender says in a news release:
No one on Earth is more detrimental to foreskin than Bill Gates. Gates’ astronomical mass circumcision funding will result in tens of millions of men and boys being circumcised, which will make him directly responsible for more unnecessary circumcisions than any other living person. And that’s why CAN-FAP will be publicly declaring Gates ‘Foreskin enemy #1’ on Tuesday.
In a 2012 letter, posted on his foundation's website, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates claims male circumcision "reduces HIV transmission by up to 70 percent". In May 2013, the foundation allocated US$1.2 million to the World Health Organization to fund the "prequalification of devices to assist in performing circumcisions and the development of guidelines on the use of devices".
Gates's letter states:
Over 1 million men ages 15–49 have been circumcised in 14 Southern and Eastern African countries with large AIDS epidemics, but that is only 5 percent of the total number who could benefit from the procedure. Even in the ancient practice of circumcision, innovation has the potential to make a big difference. The new PrePex and Shang Ring devices simplify the procedure and make surgery unnecessary. The first studies suggest that these devices are both safe and effective. (I will keep this letter G-rated by leaving out the pictures of how the devices work.) Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania are starting to show leadership by getting the message out to all young men that it is important to get circumcised. Kenya has made the most progress, circumcising 70 percent of eligible men. I will be very disappointed if, by 2015, any fewer than 15 million young men have chosen to protect themselves and their partners by getting circumcised.
Callender maintains that cutting off the foreskin from penises will not protect men from HIV and may actually give them "false confidence". His group is calling on the Gates Foundation to end its support for circumcision and redirect that funding (totalling US$145 million so far, according to CAN-FAP) to condoms and other effective methods.
In CAN-FAP's release, Callender states:
Gates has clearly listened to the world’s most ardent circumcision promoters, but has he listened to a leading foreskin advocate? I challenge him to hear the other side of the story. If you put Bill Gates in a four by four metre room with me and my foreskin for exactly 44 minutes, he will emerge convinced that circumcision is not just the wrong way to solve the HIV crisis — it’s wrong, period.
Will Gates accept Callender's invitation to meet him "face-to-face-to-foreskin"? We'll have to wait and see.
CAN-FAP calls itself "Canada’s feistiest pro-foreskin advocacy group". Its website says they "advocate for the human right of all children — male, female and intersex — to grow up with intact genitals. In other words, all children have an inalienable right to their own bodies, and no one has the right to amputate another person’s healthy, normal genital tissue without their informed consent."