is a consultant sociologist. She is currently writing a book, Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: a UK perspective. This is her professional website and blog, to share thoughts about the realities of professional practice. Previously a college Senior Lecturer, Hilary now owns a business as a consultant, researcher, writer, speaker, and website designer and coach. Community engaged, and with grounded board-level and national experience of regeneration, science, health, environmental issues, politics and culture, Hilary has worked in many contexts, from Liverpool via London to Prague. A former AFS (American Field Service) Scholar, Hilary is also now a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
The thoughts in this op-ed were published today (3 December 2013) in Women News Network. There is no doubt that everyone engaged in campaigns to stop FGM has the same objective. But do we all share the same meanings when we exchange ideas about how to achieve our aim? Here’s my first-draft lexicon of some terms commonly used in discussions around combatting FGM, with various suggestions about their possible implications for action.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the ultimate, literal, embodiment of oppressive patriarchy. Its origins are unclear, but it goes back millennia and is known to have been practised on Egyptian slaves and princesses, probably to prevent illicit sex and disputed paternities.
In this article, first published in Chartist (Nov/Dec 2013), I ask why FGM in the UK, as much as anywhere, is not just a horror story for the history books. What are we going to do to stop such cruel child abuse?
Readers are invited to support this Stop FGM e-petition:
Current debate about high speed rail in the UK [HS2] is marked by commentary talking across those of differing opinions. Little wider acknowledgement has to date been made of the fact that big changes will happen over decades to come, whether or not they’re managed. Stasis is not an option. Energy, demography and inequality are all part of the mix. What follows is a letter from me on HS2 and the triple bottom line, published in The Guardian on 30 October 2013:
Fighting Female Genital Mutilation With Our Keyboards: The Feminist Statement On FGM Is Launched Today
Today a small group of women, me included, launched our Feminist Statement On Female Genital Mutilation. We hope many people around the world will choose to support us by putting their names also to this Statement.
The basic premise of our Statement is this:
Patriarchal oppression is the bedrock of female genital mutilation (FGM) and related harmful traditional practices….. Female genital mutilation (FGM) in all its forms is cruelty and abuse.
Please add your support:
Female genital mutilation is an abhorrence, yet little to stop it has been done even in countries like Britain. With the summer ‘cutting season’ upon us, there is an urgent need to move beyond moralising, to finding real, practical ways to eradicate FGM. One approach would be to have a single-number national phone-line, co-ordinated to cover all aspects of FGM and similar abuse, as the first point of call for everyone whether concerned professionals or neighbours, family friends and neighbours, and even (older) children themselves.
Since this article was written the NSPCC have introduced a free FGM hotline which can be used by anyone, anonymously or by name as preferred:
0800 028 3550, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This post is in response to the announcement on International Women’s Day 2013 by Prime Minister David Cameron that the UK will donate £35 million towards the United Nation’s work (research and delivery) on eliminating female genital mutilation.
Political and policy aspects of this commitment are examined, along with some suggestions about how the issue can be brought into focus in Britain, where top-level formal responses to FGM until now have been very slow.
To some it may seem heartless, but surely it’s obvious: If we really, seriously want to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) we have to move beyond the moralising – essential as it is – and follow the money. And we must understand the market. Yes, female genital mutilation is irreducibly a moral and cultural issue. But, absolutely correctly, no modern western state can leverage, or justify, much in the way of legally imposed moral and cultural determinism.
Culture change on its own is difficult. It’s money which talks.