FGM: Some Progress

NSPCCAnd this just in: children’s charity takes action to protect children suffering serious harm.

The NSPCC is finally doing something charitable about female genital mutilation with a new 24-hour helpline to help UK children at risk from this vile crime. The helpline will also provide a safe space for parents and healthcare workers to raise their concerns.

This is undoubtedly good news. But forgive me for saying: it really shouldn’t be any cause for celebration, or even news, when this country’s most well-known and respected children’s charity decides to take measures to deal with a barbaric form of sexual violence in the UK which is committed predominantly against girls and young women. There has been legislation criminalising FGM since 1985 and in that time there hasn’t been a single conviction in the United Kingdom. This is because there hasn’t been a single prosecution.

What has the NSPCC been doing all this time? Colouring-in?

Lisa Harker, the NSPCC’s Head of Strategy, says:

“The UK’s child victims of female genital mutilation are hidden behind a wall of silence. Like other forms of abuse, if female genital mutilation is not exposed it will continue to thrive and more children will suffer.”

I agree with Harker. It’s just a shame that the years of inaction by the NSPCC has formed many of the bricks in that deathly wall of silence she mentions.

But let’s be positive: it’s better late than never.

However, given the years of tortured head-scratching by the NSPCC enabling it to finally, mercifully, arrive at this point, I’m entitled to question why the charity is only pulling its finger out now. Maybe it has sensed that the tide is changing. Maybe it wants to get in on the act and fall on the right side of history while it still has the chance. Maybe the NSPCC even wants to take a bit of the credit itself if anything positive ever happens. “How can you say something like that about our beloved NSPCC!”, I hear you froth. Very easily, is my answer. Like politicians, the mega charities rarely lead the way in progressing fundamental human rights. Their cycles of navel-gazing, funding, politicking, policy-making and decision-making are just too crippling and never-ending to lead to quick, decisive action. More often than not they merely follow trends rather than set them; respond to pressure rather than create it.

The reality, though, is that many people will be far too fearful to talk openly about such a “controversial” issue as FGM unless they feel it’s safe or acceptable to do so. The NSPCC’s contribution to this issue – shamefully belated though it is – will hopefully make FGM a mainstream topic and contribute to a critical mass of dissent by giving others the confidence to speak out against it. One can imagine eureka moments up and down the country as lifeless individuals spring to life thinking to themselves, “I always thought taking a blade to a small girl’s vagina for absolutely no medical reason and causing permanent harm was a bit strange, and now that the NSPCC are saying it’s wrong then I suppose it must be. Right, I’ve decided: I’m definitely against this nasty FGM business now.”

I met a rather odd chap from a human rights organisation the other day. The usual type: polite, with a legal career, well-spoken and completely committed to human rights – well sort of. I’ve heard most excuses for failing to prosecute FGM but this particular gentleman dutifully vomited a new one onto the table: FGM is – according to Human Rights Boy – unique because by definition it’s a one-off crime. You can’t FGM someone twice. You can only do it once. Therefore the disruption to family life that would be caused by a prosecution, and the damage caused by potentially taking a young girl into care, cannot be justified to get an FGM conviction. You really do have to admire anyone who can spout this twisted, culturally-relative alogic whilst not appearing to be in physical pain.

Well here are some other crimes that can only be committed once:

  • removing someone’s tongue
  • plucking out someone’s left eyeball with an ice cream scoop
  • cutting off the right testicle of a human rights activist who doesn’t really care too much about black and Asian girls having their genitals violated with a sharp instrument