Sunday, 22 April 2012

Cruel cuts

It's disgusting that every year up to 22,000 girls in the UK are at risk of being sexually mutilated in order to guarantee their "purity" when they marry. And up to 100,000 women have already been mutilated.

The practice is illegal but nobody has ever been convicted and only two doctors have been struck off for carrying out the procedure since 1980.

Somalian supermodel Waris Dirie, who was genitally mutilated as a child, is vehemently against the practice and the racist double standard that allows it to continue on such a massive scale.

"If a white girl is abused, the police come and break down the door" she says. "If a black girl is mutilated, nobody takes care of her. This is what I call racism."

The police and the government think that convictions will not achieve anything and that the best tactic is a softly-softly cultural approach, working with local community leaders to persuade families that the practice is barbaric and unnecessary.

It's hard to say if this policy is working. There is evidence that some communities are getting the message, but the fact remains that the number of girls being "cut" is still shockingly high.

It makes me so angry that so many innocent young girls, unable to stand up for themselves or resist their family's pressure, are being deliberately robbed of sexual pleasure in the name of some abstract notion of "purity" and family "honour".

The authorities may say they're doing everything they can to stamp out this repulsive ritual, but I'm just not convinced when they say so little about it.

If little boys were being routinely castrated, would there be the same half-hearted approach?

Pic: Waris Dirie

I can't stop listening to: Bonnie Raitt's new album, Slipstream. She may be 62 but hey, that lady still rocks!


  1. And it is far more akin to castration than the circumcision it is often compared to. I'm glad to see you using the term mutilation, because that's exactly what it is. It's a wicked practice and cultural sensitivity should not factor in. This isn't like interfering in things like wearing veils and so on.. It is a terrible physical assault that permanently maims its victims. The doctors who do the procedure and the parents who offer their daughters up as victims should be prosecuted.

  2. Agent - As you say, the victims are permanently maimed, and often have serious medical complications that last a lifetime - if they're not fatal. Those who collude in it are beneath contempt.

  3. I am incredulous that anyone recommends a softly-softly approach. Either this is illegal mutilation of children, or it isn't. Nothing softly-softly for the children who have had their lives changed.

    Actually Nick can this really be true? If so it gives cultural sensitivity a bad name, to put it mildly.

  4. I'm incredulous too, but it's absolutely true. Last year I wrote to several government ministers, the Metropolitan Police (London), and an MP who's campaigning on the FGM issue and that's what I was told.

    As you say, nothing softly-softly for the wretched children affected.

  5. The idea is just so horrific. Appalling to think that so many girls have undergone with mutilation

  6. Myra - It is appalling. What a lottery for young girls - if you're born to the wrong family in the wrong community, you'll be "purified", whether you like it or not.

  7. If this has been happening in the UK, I am appalled too and would straight away blame inaction on what is a very Indian phenomenon - vote bank politics. This must be happening in something akin to a ghetto and the votes there, heavily influenced by the male orientation of these communities, will ensure that the local political infrastructure will ensure that the boat is not rocked. Great Multi-culturism in action. In our case, great secularism in action.

  8. Ramana - It's obviously an ethnic minority thing, so I guess it happens all over the UK, though I have no information about Northern Ireland. As you say, the male-controlled culture helps to perpetuate it.

  9. According to the Atlantic Magazine if anything it's a worse problem here in the U.S:

    Some pediatricians tried to come up with a compromise similar to male circumcision, but their idea was stopped by FGM advocates. I think it might have helped a lot:

  10. Monk - Thanks for those informative links. Good that opposition to FGM is now building up in the States. But appalling that it's not yet illegal over there.

    Personally, I don't believe any kind of invasive procedure is justified, even the apparently harmless "genital nicking". I think it's just a desperate attempt to accomodate the indefensible.

  11. nick,
    this subject is just such a tough one. i dont want to see FGM happen but neither do i want to see revenge type activities. education is key but too slow

  12. Kylie - Revenge for what exactly? I agree, education is way too slow when dozens of girls are being "done" every day of the week.

  13. i'm afraid that if doctors refused they might be targeted, judiciary or police might be forced to "pay" if there were successful prosecutions etc
    i'm a scaredy cat, its true and people like me dont change the world

  14. Kylie - I see what you mean. I haven't heard of anyone refusing to do it, or what the consequences were, but that's a serious possibility, I guess. Ditto regarding judges and police.

    It's very understandable if people have actually been threatened and are too scared to rock the boat.

  15. just had to double check my brief comment.... for a terrible moment I thought I had written slobbering

  16. John - Very sobering. Like too many other cruel and vicious things that go on in this weird world.

    Slobbering? You've been spending too much time with all those saliva-challenged dogs!

  17. It's actually worse, Nick. A friend of mine volunteered for 2 years at an African clinic to heighten awareness and assist in correction.
    She said what's not talked about at all is the the horrific after effects of giving birth through a mutilated and scarred vulva and vagina.
    The infection rate is so severe that further mutilation is often necessary.
    And intercourse in all such case she likened to a chamber of horrors.

  18. www - I knew childbirth could be difficult, but I didn't know it was that bad. The idea of further mutilation is dreadful. As for what should be the pleasure of intercourse becoming something horrific - words fail me.

  19. This practice has always horrified and disgusted me, but until women are considered as valuable as men and not merely chattel, they will continue to be maimed in this extraordinarily painful and grisly manner. I cannot express how much I detest hearing about parents mutilating their daughters.

    On a much happier note, Bonnie Raitt is still queen.

  20. Heart - Exactly, how can a parent, who's supposed to be loving and protective, bring themselves to inflict such grotesque cruelty on their child? It defeats me.

  21. If it's cultural relativism versus stopping the mutilation of women and girls, it's a no brainer. It's criminal.
    But I suspect the most effective campaigners against it will come from inside the communities that do it or connive at it.
    Good to be reminded that it happens here.

  22. Blackwater - The idea of "cultural sensitivity" is fair enough if you're talking about some harmless community custom like a mela, but when it's used to excuse sheer cruelty, what's called for is not sensitivity but sanctions.