NaBloPoMo November 2013- Post 2.
This morning I was listening to radio 4 and heard that there are recommendations that female genital mutilation should be classified as sexual abuse and that medical staff would have to report it as such. This announcement filled me with frustration for several reasons:
a) It is currently very fashionable to campaign against FGM, especially in certain ‘women’s rights’ circles and here was further evidence of this fashion.
b) Does our government think that prosecuting individuals that may have been forced to make their daughters to have this procedure help with this issue?
Let us be clear, I do not agree with FGM. I do not agree with parents taking their daughters abroad to have this procedure done and am aware of the terrible physical complications that can arise from having this procedure done. However, I feel that the men and women who enable FGM to happen to their daughters are pinioned by a culture that says a woman’s virtue is defined by what is between her legs. There are much bigger issues here, and ones I feel that the criminalisation of FGM will ignore. The main issue being of being a woman living within a sexist society with little power and control.
We already know that making something illegal, does not make it go away. I believe criminalising FGM will not help to eradicate the practice, but potentially send it further underground. As the procedure happens to girls of Middle eastern, African, Arabic and Islamic descent, we will be disproportionately punishing those parents for ‘sexual abuse’ or potentially depriving children of their parents;and also add to the myths of those cultures and their ‘barbaric practices’.
The report recommends that health workers identify girls at risk and treat them as if they were at risk of child abuse.
Girls at risk are defined as girls born to a woman who has undergone FGM or a child who lives closely with someone who has.
This statement is very judgmental, do we judge the children of alcoholics or drug addicts that have been sober for 15 years as at risk? Should we? I disagree with the infatuation that certain individuals have with this particular issue whilst ignoring the sexual abuse, rape and violence to women and children that happens within their own communities.
FGM happens within a cultural context, just as cosmetic vaginal reshaping does. We cannot ignore the cultural context and so I believe that if the government choses to criminalise and reclassify FGM as sexual abuse then they also have a further duty to commit to education and training for representatives that work in sexual health, and in particular with immigrant communities.
The comments below from the Guardian comments section, sum up my thoughts:
”Just because FGM affects mostly black or minority ethnic women does not make it the responsibility of white people to eradicate it. The fact that FGM affects mostly black or minority ethnic females is a reflection of their lack of access to education and the power of local beliefs, religion and superstitions”.
“I believe that the solution needs to be led by women within their communities, with the support of the authorities”.
I have deliberately left out arguments on human rights because I believe this is just one aspect of the issue. Yes it is a European/ American human right to prevent harm to children but to what degree can we enforce this abroad? Also this piece is about a British response to FGM within the UK or happening to British children.
What do you think?