Friday, July 28, 2006

FGM in Great Britain

Warning: not a pleasant post. Probable rating: PG-13.

A recent posting on female genital mutilation captured my attention this afternoon. Christopher Taylor of Word around the Net has written a heart-felt and sensitive article called Mangled Girls on this so-called "crime of love". (Thank you, Mr. Taylor.) Isn't that a dandy euphemism the British have devised? "Crime of love"? You've got to be kidding. Whom are they trying not to offend?

About three million girls and young women in the world undergo this brutally violent, unloving procedure each year.

Reuters has the story, "Britain tackles "crime of love"-female circumcision"

The practice, also known as female circumcision, involves removing part or all of a girl's clitoris or labia. It is often carried out by an older woman with no medical training, using anything from scissors to tin can lids and pieces of glass.

The victims have no idea what is going to happen to them and anaesthetic or antiseptic treatment is often not used.

The centuries-old practice, prevalent mostly in Africa, is now also being brought by immigrants to Western countries, like Britain.

"FGM is a huge problem in the UK," said Ensharah Ahmed, community development officer at the UK-based Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development (Forward). Forward estimates there are around 279,500 women living in Britain who have undergone FGM, with another 22,000 girls under 16 in danger of joining them.

This year London police launched an awareness campaign...

Detective Inspector Carol Hamilton from London police's Child Abuse Command says it is difficult to tackle what she calls a "crime of love" as those responsible believe they are doing the right thing for their child...

However, it can disfigure, cause extreme pain, psychological damage, infertility or even kill.

Ahmed says not enough study has been carried out into the mental scars which were often as bad as the physical ones...

Legislation passed in 2003 makes it illegal for British residents to arrange FGM in Britain or abroad, and those guilty of procuring or carrying out the practice face up to 14 years in jail. No one has yet been prosecuted.

Why hasn't anyone been prosecuted in three years if so many young immigrant girls and women are being victimized? Are doctors required to report any girls they see in their practice who've been mutilated?
"Most communities will say it's necessary, it's something they need to protect their cultural identity now they are living in another country," she said...
There are some very nice customs that people bring with them from other lands that add meaning to their lives. But you know what? Mutilation of little girls ain't one of them. You move to the West, you live by our rules. We don't like little girls being cut up. If you don't respect our custom of leaving little girls intact, then don't come or be prepared to do some jail time. Am I wrong here? (Rhetorical question only, because, no, I am not.)
"But what it is actually is physical and emotional torture of little girls who
have no say in the matter. It is so totally barbaric and against human rights
that we need to be seen to be tackling it -- but we have to do it slowly."
Whaaat? I was with you until that last "but". How slowly are we talking? Only a few thousand more girls cut up first? Is that slowly enough? I wonder if those PC proponents who don't want to offend the immigrants' culture would wish it to be phased out slowly if they or their daughters had to undergo female genital mutilation. Somehow I think they'd want it stopped fast if they or a loved one were about to be attacked with a razor---as in immediately, and not one more victim!

Getting the message across is not easy. Many teachers, school nurses and welfare workers are ignorant of the issue, and community workers say the government needs to do more.

"Part of our challenge to the government is to promote this law -- it is a good weapon we have now," said Mary Kanu, a worker in a London-based African community group.

"If the children know that they have a right not to be mutilated they can report it to the police.

"If they have no opportunity to know there is a law that protects them, anything their mum or dad or auntie tells them, they will accept it."

But the message can be gotten across. So do it, already. Doctors and nurses could talk with all their patients about the evils of female genital mutilation. Schools are routinely used to indoctrinate the young with the latest philosophies. Here's a clear-cut situation where they could do some good. Whenever welfare workers interact with families they could explain our culture and laws to any families that may be at risk. And how about making a few examples out of some offenders? My understanding is that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

The article ended with a mention that this is more of a cultural custom than a religious one, with some Islamic leaders speaking out against the practice.

There is a time to be sensitive to other cultures. But, guys, this is not it. This shouldn't be happening anywhere. While we may not be able to do much to stop this practice in other countries, Europe can certainly make the consequences for hurting little girls harsh enough that people won't want to hurt them in the West.

And boy, I sure hope this isn't going on here.


At 7/28/2006 9:32 PM, Blogger Karmyn R said...

I knew it still happened in African cultures - but was SHOCKED to find out they carried this tradition to other countries. I would think that that a few billboards strategically placed here and there - and info brought into the schools should help it - and done so immediately.

Horrible horrible horrible - makes me sick and sad for those children!

At 7/29/2006 1:36 PM, Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

I've seen no reports of it happening in the US but I'd be amazed if it was not. I just doubt it's as widespread as Europe - to my knowledge there have been few honor killings in the US so far either.


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