Monday, 21 December 2009

Barbaric cuts

While we're scoffing our Christmas dinners, refilling our wine glasses and generally having a good time, let's spare a thought for the hundreds of little girls whose Christmas will be one of fear and pain.

Female genital mutilation is thriving in Britain, despite it being illegal and despite the appalling health risks. And Christmas is the time when many young girls are "seen to" by the "cutters" who do it for a living.

An estimated 70,000 women in the UK have had it done and some 20,000 girls are still in line for it. The victims can die of bleeding or tetanus, and later may develop urinary incontinence, recurrent infections and chronic pain. It can also cause major problems with childbirth and psychological disorders.

The British government has done scandalously little to stop it. Their attitude seems to be that it's a cultural tradition they shouldn't interfere with. So, unbelievably, not one person has been prosecuted in 25 years.

The Somali model Waris Dirie, who was mutilated when she was five, says "No one can undo the trauma that is caused by this horrible crime. It stays in your head for ever."

A government that's vetting some 15 million people for their possible paedophile tendencies, but turns a blind eye to the mass amputation of young girls' clitorises, is a very odd one indeed. Clearly their own daughters aren't at risk, so they don't really care.

The idea that because something is a long-standing cultural ritual from elsewhere, we should respect it and not intrude, even if it involves monstrous cruelty and suffering, is ridiculous. Cruelty is cruelty and should be prevented, whatever the perpetrator's background.

It's about time the government stopped sitting on its hands, stopped ignoring this barbaric practice and put the "cutters" in jail where they belong.

17 comments:

kylie said...

fgm is indeed barbaric. i am uncomfortable with the idea of imposing my expectations on people of a different culture but in the end, if it is illegal it is illegal. and failure to prosecute just makes an ass of the law

Thriftcriminal said...

Couldn't agree more, absolutely obscene and cruel.

Nick said...

Kylie - I think there's a difference between cultural variations that are merely a question of differing tastes and perspectives, which are not a problem, and cultural practices that are simply inhuman and cruel and should be stopped, whatever their supposed justification.

Nick said...

Thrifty - Indeed, obscene in the true sense of the word.

Los Angelista said...

I have a couple of friends who've experienced this and they've had major health problems because of it. It's horrible that this goes on - but of course the government isn't going to step in because if they did, they could be challenged in court over why they allow male circumcision and clearly, that's not going away anytime soon, at least here in the States it isn't.

The motivation behind this female mutilation is clearly different from circumcision but still, I tend to think that's why it's not challenged more.

Nick said...

Liz - Sorry to hear about your friends who've been through this, and the repercussions. You might be right about male circumcision and the sexual discrimination angle, I hadn't thought about that. Though the arguments about male circumcision are more ambiguous - yes, it's mutilation that reduces sexual sensitivity, but it's also a very effective anti-HIV measure.

I was circumcised myself, and I still wonder if it did me any long-term psychological damage.

Scarlet Blue said...

Yep, I agree with Kylie.
I find this practice disgusting - actually words fail me.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - It's medieval. It's sexual repression at its most crude and misogynist.

Leah said...

Oh Nick, it's so awful, I agree. I'm so shocked that it's being done in Britain! And I also agree with your point about cultural relativism--we simply can't sanction cruel practices, even if they are accepted in other cultures!

Nick said...

Leah - I bet there are an awful lot of Brits who have no idea this is going on here and assume it only happens in other countries.

Wisewebwoman said...

Long live the patriarchy!
XO
WWW

Rummuser said...

I am amazed that this happens in your part of the world. It does not happen in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, all three with very large Muslim population and to find that it happens there is simply mind numbing. I agree that action needs to be taken. To do so, there must be a complaint first, and this is where I suspect the rub lies.

Nick said...

www - And to think some people maintain women now have everything they want and we are "post-feminist". Have they opened their eyes recently?

Ramana - Astonishing it doesn't happen at all in those countries, just where we ill-informed Brits would assume it's routine. You're probably right about the willingness to make a complaint. I imagine many women would be terrified of retaliation or ostracism.

Baino said...

We have a growing Somali population here in a nation that is largely white or Asian and it has become a problem. It's illegal and only recently two people had their passports confiscated because the courts felt that the parents were returning to their homeland to perform fgm on their young daughters. This is also an offence. Sadly, it's like abortion, it goes underground. There's no place for this in any society.

Having said that, you and Jenny have a lovely Christmas!

Nick said...

Baino - Good to know the authorities are actually taking some action, though as you say that might simply mean it gets done furtively and in secret. The difficulty is changing the whole cultural tradition that requires this grotesque act.

Suburbia said...

Hard to believe that everyone can turn such a blind eye.

Nick said...

Suburbia - It certainly is. It amounts to domestic violence but somehow the authorities don't see it like that.