FGM, or Female Genital Mutilation, is an issue that has been getting more and more media exposure. It is a painful practice that can have an impact on a woman’s health for her entire life.
When it comes to government intervention, the issue becomes complicated. Many suggest that it is not the government’s place to interfere with such matters. I agree that often, government intervention involving cultural and religious matters can be clumsy and misplaced, or a thinly-veiled way of trying to get people to assimilate.
FGM is extremely ingrained in some cultures, and we should not lecture other countries about how to deal with the issue. A gung-ho, imperialistic attitude that ignores the nuances of this practice won’t solve anything. However, when it comes to intervention within the confines of the UK, the law is clear: cutting the genitals of a young child counts as an infringement of their rights. And as traditional as it may seem, individuals in the countries where the practice originated are beginning to say there is no religious basis for the practice, which was an oft-used defence. So, why does it still happen? In countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia (including Kenya, Yemen, Somalia, Oman, Malaysia, and diaspora communities in Europe, USA and Australia), FGM is carried out to make girls more marriageable, prove virginity, or to make the area ‘clean’. Why should a woman’s genitals have to be doctored in this way for her to be attractive or respectable?
When the practice is carried out on girls living in Britain, or on British citizens who are flown abroad, it lies under UK jurisdiction and children at risk of it should be protected. Some of the after-effects include a lifetime of urinary infections, incontinence, bleeding, and complications when giving birth. FGM is abuse, and we should not tolerate this out of fear, ignorance or indifference.
Britain should not lecture people on how to carry out traditions or turn this issue into a way to attack non-western cultures and carry out a moralistic crusade. But equally, Britain should not allow a practice which harms young women to continue. This debate is about the girls who are forced to endure FGM, often performed by untrained individuals, with no pain relief, and in unsanitary conditions.
Any mutilation of the female body in the name of ideals outside of her control and knowledge, because her natural body isn’t good enough, is an injustice. There is always something wrong, something disgusting, and something that could be bigger or smaller. Sexual politics and body politics constrain us greatly. But it doesn’t have to be this way forever. And we can start by eradicating a practice which is negatively affecting thousands of females here, and all over the globe.