Traditional theories of toleration have to face the well-known problem of pre-emption of toleration. A liberal state should maximize individual liberties and be neutral with respect to diverse religions and theories of the good. In this scenario, the state cannot tolerate a certain practice because for toleration to obtain the state should object to a practice, while accepting it for some other reason. However, if the state is neutral, there should be no reason to object to a given practice, while allowing it. Hence, either the state allows a certain practice, without objecting to it, or such a practice should be banned. Then, toleration in a liberal state seems pre-empted by state neutrality and individual liberties.
Within this traditional understanding of toleration, the case of symbolic genital cutting might represent a genuine case of toleration insofar as a liberal state might have reasons to accept it, while still having reasons of objection. The reasons for accepting this symbolic practice include the principle of harm reduction and the idea that a symbolic formulation of this practice might contribute to an evolution of the practice that does not harm women. However, the conditions for these reasons to apply are hard to obtain. Hence, the case for toleration in a liberal state, although possible in theory for symbolic genital cutting, might not easily be translated into practice.
- Female genital mutilation (FGM)
- Symbolic genital cutting
- Ritual circumcision
- Cosmetic genital surgery
- Double standards
- Pre-emption of toleration