Archive | July, 2012

FGM in the UK: not ok

31 Jul

The debate around female genital mutiliation (FGM) has gained some prominence through the reports from Sue Lloyd Roberts, featured on Newsnight last week.

It’s not the kind of subject anyone really wants to dwell on, but perhaps it’s about time we did.  It’s always interesting to see the differences between British and French responses to similar problems.

At the intersection of individual, cultural, and societal rights, the French are consistent: if you live in France, you are subject to French law and the separation of cultural and legal rights and practices.

In Britain, in over thirty years of outlawing FGM, we have prosecuted no-one for cutting females, even though the practice is illegal; in France a hundred cases have been prosecuted in the same time period.  French medical professionals routinely examine children’s genitalia in health check-ups to ensure that carers are clear that the practice is illegal, and any mutilation can be surgically corrected as far as possible.  Although figures are extremely difficult to collate, anecdotally the UK is viewed as a ‘safe haven’ for those who wish to practise FGM on their daughters.  There is a view that examining young girls’ private parts may be awkward or even rights-infringing in itself, but this is hard to equate with the impact of FGM in terms of physical pain, trauma and psychological and sexual consequences.  Isn’t this a far greater infringement than any qualms one may have over checking that a young girl’s genitals look as they should?  On Newsnight last week, a group of young women from Bristol who have made a film campaigning against FGM, made this point.

Women should not be deprived of their sexuality in the name of ‘tradition’.  In Britain we should be doing everything in our power to ensure that FGM does not occur on our watch.

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