Put a stop to female genital mutilation. Full stop.

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Project O

Question 6: If you could share an opinion on a single international incident or topic that you either feel strongly about or that might not be known to the rest of the world what would it be? You have our attention.

“Female genital mutilation: for the love of all humanity, how on earth is it possible for this to be happening in 2013? in the name of religion, apparently. Whichever god it is you follow, even if it is science, females have been created in that way for a reason. Who should have the right to change it? FGM in the USIn December 2012 the UN passed a resolution opposing the practice, and whilst the main practice occurs in Africa, a recent report gave official figures of 2000 girls seeking medical help in London in the past 3 years following the procedure. The appalling treatment of young girls in this way is beyond reprehension and demonstrates not a single ounce of respect for them as a human being. If would seem however that there is no recourse for these cases. Is it a too difficult subject to deal with because people are scared of offending someone because of ‘religion’? If it was down to me, whoever does this, including the mother and the father who sanction it, they should be tried for actual bodily harm, or in some horrific cases, manslaughter or murder.” Julie



When it comes to difficult topics, female genital mutilation (FGM) comes very near the top. I did not know where to begin. I wavered. What could I possibly say when faced with such cruelty inflicted, perpetuated in part at least, by those who have been themselves submitted to the same.

This cycle of violence – seemingly endless — saddens me to the core.

For those who do not know what female genital mutilation entails:

  • the removal of all or part of the clitoris,
  • the cutting out of the surrounding labia (the outer part of the vagina)
  • the sewing up of the vagina (with a small opening left for bodily functions)

One of the key reasons for FGM being carried out is the belief that it will reduce a woman’s libido, therefore discouraging sexual activity before marriage.

Culture, religion and social norms collude in its perpetuation in some Muslim countries where the practice is prevalent. In part this is due to the high value placed on a woman’s chastity and modesty in those countries.

It beggars belief. I simply do not understand why it is necessary to mutilate a girl for her to be considered chaste and modest?

I am appalled every time another story appears in media about yet another British girl taken back to her parents’ home country to be physically and psychologically abused in this way. It has been estimated that more than 20,000 girls under 15 are at risk of FGM in the UK each year, and than 66,000 women in the UK have been submitted to the procedure.

While I do not know how this practice can be curtailed in countries where it is inscribed in culture and faith, I cannot understand how it is possible for Western governments to fail in protecting their citizens to such a degree. In the UK, the practice was outlawed in 1985, and yet there have been no prosecutions to date.

In the economic context in which we now live, with the recession seemingly endless, such issues are side-lined. This is a crime and those we put into a seat of power and give free reign to govern the minutia of our lives ought to be more proactive on this issue.

The first major inquiry into female genital mutilation was launched last month. The inquiry aims to ‘get to the truth’ about the lack of convictions three decades after FGM was made illegal in the UK. The Home Affairs Select Committee will challenge ministers and the police over inaction when it comes to charging ‘cutters’ or families who arrange the surgery. Some responsibility is being laid at the door of NHS staff, teachers and social workers for failing to do enough to curb the practice.

At an international level, the 2012 UN resolution is a step forward. However, it will only make a difference if implemented effectively in all countries, particularly those where the it is a common occurrence. So once again it comes down to a country by country approach, and lobbying for local governmental support in stopping the mutilation of girls and women.

The “cultural” argument does not stand up. Not to me. Not in this context. Not when human beings are being hurt unnecessarily. Some traditions are best left behind.


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29 thoughts on “Put a stop to female genital mutilation. Full stop.

  1. This just reaffirms for me that the US news never reports on the important things. I hadn’t realized this was an issue in the UK. I think I remember hearing about it once in a Law and Order episode on TV, and I knew in Africa it was an issue, but to hear that it’s a much more wide-spread problem is appalling to me. Definitely is something that needs to be brought to the table, and addressed. ASAP.

  2. In the US I know it wasn’t legislated against because they pushed this issue under the rug with the rest of their dirt. Female genital mutilation has been going on for decades now. It needs to be put to a bitter end, and I know the end won’t be pretty for either side.

    • I am sorry to hear that. I would’ve thought that would not be allowed to rest so easily, especially because this is happening to many girls who are born in the US and therefore – whatever their background – are first and foremost Americans. Thank you for your comment, kbeezyisviral.

      • It’s a crying shame, but I always envision a better tomorrow. America doesn’t like to put women in power because they know the messages conveyed will be powerful beyond measure. Stripping innocent women of their prowess, femininity, and genitalia is the most surefire way to prevent uprise from occurring.

      • I always thought that the best thing about there being more women in power was the balancing of views. The same fears were drawn on to delay giving women the vote and no uprising followed. But to allow such barbaric practices to take place is just beyond anything acceptable in a democracy. Thank you for your comment – very pertinent.

      • I completely agree. Very well put, Vic. It is unfortunate that we only live in a labelled “democracy” and not a real “democracy”.

  3. Oh God!!! that is really very cruel and sadly this is the first time I am hearing of it. And as usually, very well written Vic. It is really a very difficult topic.

    • Thank you, KG. Raising awareness was one of the reasons for which I decided to write on the topic. It was a very difficult one for me to approach. Not only because it is difficult, but also because I struggle to understand why it happens.

  4. Thank you for bringing this hideous issue to the forefront where it deserves to be. I regularly speak out against FGM and it is sometimes awkward at dinner parties but it’s too important an issue to be left unsaid. I also read about large numbers of girls in continental Europe being subjected to this barbarity. For those of you who haven’t read a firsthand account I suggest that you read ‘Desert Flower’ by Waris Dirie: http://www.amazon.com/Desert-Flower-Extraordinary-Journey-Nomad/dp/0688172377

  5. I’m glad to say that the practice has been outlawed in Australia. I believe each state did its own legislation so they came into effect at different times. e.g. Western Australia criminalised it in 2004 and the first charge was made this year against the parents of the girl. In New South Wales a doctor was found guilty in 2010. Although this is the ti of the iceberg we have made a start on this dreadful practice.

  6. I am totally against this, but just so you know, Islam never encouraged this for females.
    Islam has only encouraged circumcision for males. People have just innovated their religion by themselves and do it in the name of religion. It’s really a shame.

    • It is a shame, I agree. Thank you, hiba98. I have to say that I was surprised to find out that it is prevalent in Muslim countries as a practice. I can’t fully understand the connection between following Islam and the circumcision of women. As you say, it is done in the name of religion but without actual justification sought in the texts – at least not in so far as I am aware.

  7. I never thought this was practiced in UK, I first heard this news way back and it was an issue from Africa. I hope they will ban this and will never do to someone so innocent and fragile. If they do not want their children to engage in premarital sex then they should educate their children better. I think NO one has the right to do that.

  8. As always Vicki, you hit the nerve with this one. It’s done in my home country Nigeria and it’s killed thousands of innocent girls,and left more women psychologically damaged and emotionally dead!

    It’s an irony that a country like the U.S.A, whose senate constantly has it’s head up the female Vagina has not legislated this problem, which sadly exists here as well.
    I’m always proud of the U.K and her governance,especially in humanitarian aide and assistance.

    Yes, we complain about so much, but at least there in the U.K. there is awareness. There are numerous charities and groups which actually help victims and the U.K is one of the few countries in the west which really offers tangible humanitarian assistance and medical help to victims as well.

    There is hope for girls in the U.K. unlike so many hundreds of thousands in Africa. As for my home country Nigeria, we are also fortunate to have a few national female celebrities campaigning and creating awareness about this, and also educating women in the rural areas of their options and the medical implications and dangers of the horrible practice.

    Aside of religious reasons, poverty and underdevelopment also contribute to this in Africa. The corrupt leadership of many African countries especially mine Nigeria, leave their people without medical facilities,many cases not even a health center is available.

    Educating my people has helped, and also gaining the trust of male leaders of religious communities. Few are leaning towards change though it’s still a battle ahead.
    The sad thing is that these strict rules and domination by these religious people does not stop their perversion of also marrying off the innocent 12 year old they have mutilated earlier in life, only to then rape under the pretense of a so-called marriage.

    We will write about it, blog it,twit it and all the available mediums of creating awareness. Sometimes, this is all we can do,but we’ll never stop now will we?
    Thank you for another excellent topic, we’ll keep fighting still.

    • Thank you, Dotta, for yet another thorough comment. The situation in Africa is indeed very good. Another commenter mentioned too that education may be the first place where the fight could begin to try and curtail the practice. Regarding underage marriage – where to begin?! I may have to write a whole new post about this.
      Thank you so much, Dotta – great comment, as always.

  9. Pingback: Feminist Friday Discussion Thread, Round Two | Sourcerer

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