The shocking truth about FGM

Lynne FEatherstone 2007 Brighton conference by Liberal DemocratsResponding to reports that a case of FGM is reported in England every 109 minutes, former Liberal Democrat DfID Minister Lynne Featherstone said:

The Liberal Democrats in Coalition ensured the NHS must report cases of FGM , it is vital that we shine a light on this barbaric practice.

It is shocking how many cases are now coming forward but we must see this as a positive. Without knowing the true extent of the problems we do not face a hope of stopping it. The rate in which cases are reported shows how much work is still left to do. We must highlight the issue in schools, ensuring that young girls are educated about the issue at a young age.

Tomorrow is International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation and the fight is far from over. The more we increase awareness of the horrific nature of FGM the easier it will be to end it.

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  • A criminal offence for anyone not to report it,routine medical examinations at school with strict liability for parents and mandatory prison sentences.

  • I have always felt that the campaign against FGM has to some extent been undermined by the apparent acceptance of male genital mutilation. Indeed in some areas the NHS still funds it.

    Now I know the two procedures are somewht different but surely there is a principle at stake here. Either the mutilation of a child’s genitals against their will and without their permission is either wrong or ir isn’t?

  • I’m with Rob 100% on this. FGM is an horrendous practice, and we need more criminal investigations to be taken more seriously. That said, I’ve always found it bizarre to the point of surreal, that circumcision on a small child is socially accepted and conducted with impunity. Neither of these barbarous procedures are not promoted by medical need. Both of these acts are abuse, pure and simple.

  • The situation is so ludicrous that it’s illegal to have your child tattooed if he is under the age of 18. However you can have a piece of his penis lopped off at a few days old with no questions asked.

    If an organisation came along now and said we’ve got this religious or cultural practice, that requires us to cut of the left ear of all boys and the right ear of all girls I am not sure we would want to go along with that, still less fund it through the NHS.

  • The mutilation of the girls can not compare with circumcision even though I find that horrific. It is done to girls to remove any chance of them enjoying sex and perversely increase male sexual pleasure. The after affects these girls suffer are horrendous and creates terrible medical consequences. Perhaps men should read up on exactly what they do to these girls. Please do not undermine campaigns by confusing the two very different practices.

  • “If an organisation came along now and said we’ve got this religious or cultural practice,….”
    And therein lies the problem with trying to confront FGM, I’m afraid. We are all justified to be outraged at FGM and its awful consequences for women and girls. What is not justified or clear, is, why that outrage goes abruptly silent when it wanders into the domains of culture and religion. What are we afraid of?

  • I will take issue with Anne’s comment which seems to assume that men aren’t aware of what FGM is all about. Well I and many men very much are! It is the case that the mutilation involved in FGM, especially in extremis, is far more catastrophic than male genital mutilation. However many men suffer medical and psychological problems in later life over something that their parents had done to them for no good reason.

    The problem seems to be that one practise has religious protection and the other one doesn’t – yet!

  • Rob , Indigo , Anne ,

    The difference is power . And of course the degree of harm involved .Both important to Liberals.Male circumcision is carried out by men , for men , as well as being of little harm compared to fgm , it is not victimisation.I think it is time for Jewish and Muslim traditionalists to discard circumcision , and I believe it to be pointless and out of date symbolism , easily replaceable with symbolism in words of ceremony , not action.This is an area we could pursue , with persuasion .

    However , listen to the wonderful President Carter on this , the Carter centre of his and wife Rosalyn, have been active in stopping it . It is barbaric , mutilation , yes , for sure! Power , dominance , complete subjection of one gender by another , with the victimised complicit, by inaction and as a result of their own humiliation.

    John says up at the top of the discussion ,what must be heard more . Well done to Baroness Featherstone . I have regularly said , we Liberals should be clear that for every one or two non violent crimes that should not lead to prison or harsh treatment , there is a violent one that deserves stronger and longer sentences . Greg Mullholland understood this on road safety . On fgn , as with any and all violence against the vulnerable , the Liberal voice is one that defends and fights for the victimised , and against the victimiser .The rapist , the murderer , the thug and the bully should be punished .And that means the mutilator , too ! Liberalism is about rights AND responsibility , about civil liberties AND rule of law .The law is clear . Female genital mutilation must be stopped !

  • Rob, I did not mean you but there are a lot of men and women who probably do not fully understand, thinking it just a minor operation. I have to admit to not knowing much myself until relatively recently, so deliberately well hidden it was from most of us and I feel sick knowing everything they do to these girls. It has been ignored because of the religion/culture of those carrying it out. Those who have turned a blind eye because of PC have a lot to answer for. The worst thing is they do it to make themselves look good, they do not give a damn for victims whenever the people of religion are the abusers as the recent uncovering of sexual abuse has shown. If we dare to challenge we are an ic, ist or phobe. What are they? I think evil through stupidity. Unfortunately I doubt that the religions that practice circumcision or FGM will stop the medieval torture. Depressing is it not? It is wrong that circumcision is made into a joke, often by comedians and on TV sitcoms making it acceptable. Perhaps the campaign could start there.

  • Catherine Royce 6th Feb '16 - 2:45pm

    As today is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM can we try and stay focussed on girls and women for 24hours? The mandatory reporting in place since last year, is finally, after 30years of this illegal practice, beginning to shine a light on how prevalent FGM is, here in the UK. All reports so far are of survivors, not ‘hot’ cases, and whilst it is clear there are thousands of girls and women affected, we are still waiting for our first conviction. We know girls are being taken abroad in school holidays to be mutilated, but FGM is also occurring ‘in plain sight’ here in the UK so I ask all of you to look around you, in your workplaces, schools and communities because for sure it is happening somewhere very close to where you are, right now, today.

  • Rob: I have always felt that the campaign against FGM has to some extent been undermined by the speed with which action or words against FGM are followed by a series of others, usually men, saying ‘Ah yes, but what about [insert other issue here]’.

  • Maria Pretzler 6th Feb '16 - 3:36pm

    The problem is that some men evidently cannot stand the idea that a discussion might be about issues that does not concern men. This phenomenon means that often any discussion about issues concerning women ends up as a discussion not of the issue, but an attempt to delegitimise the issue or to completely derail the discussion in another direction.

    There should be some sort of equivalent of Godwin’s law.

    Something like this:
    “As an online discussion about an issue specifically concerning women grows longer, the probability of a man suggesting that the issue should not be discussed without first considering another issue (also concerning men) approaches 1”

    This is specifically a day where we think about FGM – and comparing FGM with male circumcision is quite dismissive of the pain and life-long agony FGM causes. I wonder, really, perhaps some people manage to consider the suffering of people who *aren’t* like themselves, and don’t have the same shape of genitalia as they do?

  • To Lorenzo I would say that the Jewish & Muslim traditionalists don’t necessarily have to give up enforced circumcision although I wish they would.

    They could just leave children alone until they are old enough to make their own informed decision. If they then wish to have a bit of their own anatomy chopped off to show their religious adherence then best of luck to them.

    As for Mark Pack’s comment it just sounds like he’s frightened to take on the religious establishment or maybe he supports enforced male circumcision. However that doesn’t mean the rest of us who don’t shouldn’t talk about it.

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Feb '16 - 3:53pm

    We need to prosecute parents who make their child undergo FGM. The idea that child abuse shouldn’t be prosecuted because “it might stop people from coming forward” is ridiculous, in my view.

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Feb '16 - 3:58pm

    Why can’t we give the child the choice on whether they press charges? Only prosecuting the doctors still allows abuse with impunity for the parents.

  • Lynne Featherstone 6th Feb '16 - 4:03pm

    Cannot tell you how fed up I am with every time I write anything about FGM a chorus of men pipe up and say ‘what about me’?. Firstly – translating FGM equivalent to a man would mean cutting off at least half or more of the actual penis. This is a practise that wouldn’t have lasted 4 minutes let alone 4000 years if it were happening to men. So there is no comparison. Secondly – if you are so worked up about circumcision – go campaign on it yourselves!

  • Catherine, Mark, Maria and Lynne are right in that FGM ought not be ‘hijacked’ by other abuse issues. So I apologise if that appears the intent, when it was not.
    However, please don’t allow that unintended error to be used as a distraction from the serious avoidance issues, I asked answers to previously, ~ ~ “… why that outrage [at FGM ], goes abruptly silent when it wanders into the domains of culture and religion. ”
    Am I allowed to ask a frank question?. Why do liberals and feminists balk at vocally confronting the fact that FGM originates only in certain cultures and religions? Are feminists ready yet to take the challenge directly to those cultures where the problem frankly lies?
    Also, what efforts do you feel should be taken by government to re-educate those cultures away from this horrific practice of FGM.? It is evident that some within these cultures still believe it is OK to inflict this horrific process on their own daughters. It needs to be challenged ‘at source’, with appropriate education, or it will never be eradicated.
    How do we tackle that cultural re-education problem?

  • Sorry Lynne Featherstone but you have to deal with that. Every time I have had a conversation about FGM, going back years, it isn’t long before someone asks the question “why isn’t male circumcision wrong”? In inferring that I should clear off and run my own anti male circumcision campaign she might have said she would be supportive but she didn’t.

    To say “go campaign on it yourselves” is a bit disappointing to say the least. I thought we were in a party where men and women campaigned together on issues of mutual interest.

  • Chris White 6th Feb '16 - 5:49pm

    I was LDV duty editor yesterday and decided without hesitation to post Lynne’s press release as the issue is so horrifying. I remain astonished that anyone could even consider male circumcision to be in any way comparable to this appalling pratice.

  • Lynne featherstone 6th Feb '16 - 5:52pm

    If all you ever do is comment and never actually do anything actively then my suggestion still stands. Go do!

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Feb '16 - 5:56pm

    Commenting is doing something actively. Let’s not turn this into a debate about moaning men or circumcision. The debate should be about FGM.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 6th Feb '16 - 7:49pm

    Dear Colleagues,

    FGM is an abomination, but please let us not equate this with make circumcision, the two are not connected.

    As someone who was circumcised as a babe in arms do I feel that I was violated and abused by my parents?

    Simply put, No!

    Is a female violated and abused as a result of FGM, Yes!

    I have lost nothing, other than a piece of skin that is particularly unhygienic, not only for myself, but for my partner as well, whereas a female who suffers from FGM loses the ability to enjoy the act of sex.

    Now, I accept that I was circumcised as a result of religious and cultural traditions, but the health benefits have been many, and frankly on this matter (but very few others) I thank my parents, as have every sexual partner that I have known, so please can we actually discuss the real abuse that is FGM and stop trying to see those of us males that have benefited as equal victims, we are not!


    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

  • In the article Lynne says that :
    “We must highlight the issue in schools, ensuring that young girls are educated about the issue at a young age.”
    The problem I foresee with that strategy, is that young girls who are at risk, are not actually in control of their own bodies.? Educating young girls about FGM is fine, but doesn’t help them, if their parents still think it’s culturally appropriate to send them abroad or some back street operator, to have this horrendous procedure inflicted on them. Surely, the education against FGM, needs to be focused strongly at the parent level, not the young girl who has no control?
    What cultural re-education plan does Lynne, and LibDems suggest for the parents, who are the real source of the FGM problem ?

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