Why Female Genital Mutilation Continues

When is a good time to talk about human rights abuses against children? Actually, when isn’t?

You might have seen some pieces on Sunday 22nd April 2012 in the Telegraph, the Independent and the Guardian about a wonderfully rich religious/cultural practice called female genital mutilation (or, if you prefer the slightly more palatable TLA, FGM). If you’re thinking, “that sounds pretty gruesome”, that’s because it is.

Don’t worry if you missed these stories; it’s probably because there were some equally important items about a series of minor sporting events being staged in and around our capital city this summer on a £12bn shoestring, or – shock, horror – dishonest and corrupt MPs in the pocket of equally dishonest and corrupt corporations in the pocket of dishonest and corrupt MPs.

That female genital mutilation is not one of the most pressing issues of our time is a moral outrage of the highest order. I often find that when I bring up the topic – never for shock factor or to be controversial, but simply to raise awareness amongst friends, colleagues and family – people just aren’t interested. So here I consider some reasons why this practice – literally the cutting edge of hundreds of years of combined religious/cultural/voodoo medical expertise – not only takes place in the United Kingdom in 2012, but why it gets such an appallingly easy ride. As an additional exercise I’ve attempted to set out the reasons on an increasing scale of moral abdication. If you disagree with the order then just ignore that and concentrate on the actual reasons.

1. Lack of awareness. The solution here is simple: carry on talking and don’t stop talking until vaginas stop getting mutilated.

2. People are aware it happens but they’re too easily persuaded by religious/community “leaders” (I prefer the term, “village idiot elders”) and by those in the media who do their bidding, that FGM is harmless or justified. The solution here is for everyone to stop pandering to these so-called leaders and accepting their assumed jurisdiction to relieve others of their human rights for their own twisted ideologies. “Leaders”, you say? Funny, I don’t recall receiving my polling card. Did you get yours? Do you think the pre-pubescent and barely pubescent girls ever got theirs?

3. People allow a tsunami of muddled, culturally-relativist, post-modern bullshit to wash over them. At a stretch this thinking is possibly well-intentioned but in all cases it’s utterly misguided and dumb:

“Who are we to impose our western values on those from different cultures?”
Who are we? We are human beings who condemn in the strongest possible terms any physical and mental harm against our fellow human beings – especially those who are vulnerable and powerless. And we say that the rule of law, the human rights of the individual, and our western liberal democracy is far, far superior to the ignorant, primitive law(lessness) of the jungle and the sand dunes.

“We value religious and cultural diversity.”
Correct, but that is not the same as diversity of human rights on the basis of religion or culture, which we certainly do not or should not value. Or to use my formula from a previous post:

Sn(r,c,e): l(Hr) = √FA


Sn is significance
r,c,e is religious, cultural, ethnic or other grouping
is level
Hr is human rights
FA is fuck all

“This will marginalise Muslims.”
No, it won’t. It will marginalise and criminalise Muslims who butcher young girls in their care with sharp implements. It will de-marginalise and empower the young girls by bringing them in from the cold, miserable, legal no-man’s-land they currently inhabit.

4. People are aware it happens and they think it’s wrong, but the very subject matter is so hideous they want to avoid thinking about it, let alone talking about it (just watch people instinctively cross their legs, screw up their face and physically shudder at the mention of FGM). Sure, there are other things I would rather think and talk about, too, but the girls aren’t spared the practice as they don’t have a choice or a voice, so I think we owe it to them to deal with it on their behalf.

5. People disapprove of the practice but are too scared to speak out lest they be called racist or – yes, that word again – Islamophobic. The irony here is twofold: sitting idly by while young defenceless girls with black or brown skin have their genitals irreversibly mutilated against their will, for no objective medical reason or benefit, is an extreme form of racism. And if such a concept as Islamophobia actually even exists, then not being remotely concerned about violence to young girls’ intimate parts in the name of Islam might just be an example of it.

6. Anything that is seen as non-western or anti-western is, well, cool, regardless of any intrinsic harm that might be taking place. And it’s all probably our fault anyway, because of our colonial history and our decadent, imperialist, godless, capitalist, consumerist, nihilistic, selfish, and generally non-Sharia-compliant lifestyles.

7. Neat, undiluted racism: “This is just happening to girls whose families are originally from places like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, Sudan and Saudi, right, and not to white girls? Couldn’t give a fuck, mate.”

These seven factors – I am sure there are more – merely galvanise that which is produced by a violently perfect storm, for FGM is but one hazardous by-product of affording religious and other primitive beliefs an elevated, unquestioned status over time.

When such beliefs are faithfully transmitted over and over again through the vehicle of childhood indoctrination and then further reinforced by official and unofficial power infrastructures which ruthlessly stamp out dissent or even discussion from within and without, it’s entirely unsurprising to see something like FGM develop and flourish: a shining example of what religions and other ignorant belief systems manage to do so incredibly successfully.

Religion and children? Yep, cracking idea. I can’t think of anything that could possibly go wrong.