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Hilary Burrage's website comprises mostly her sociological papers and articles about patriarchy, (gendered) harmful practices and, specifically, female genital mutilation / FGM.

To select particular topics in any area please go to the Word Cloud below on your right.
(Or just scroll down here for recent posts....)

Hilary is the author of two books on her chosen themes:

15.07.14 FGM Book1 jacket jpegEradicating Female Genital Mutilation: A UK Perspective (Ashgate/Routledge, 2015) is a book about pathways to eradicating FGM in the UK and around the world, and a detailed handbook-textbook which covers global and historic/political issues from a socio-economic as well as educational, legal and medical aspects.
There is an accompanying website for updates and a Twitter account [book available from the publisher; or from Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com (inc. e-format) and high street booksellers].

16.01.22 Female Mutilation book pic (3)Female Mutilation: The truth behind the horrifying global practice of female genital mutilation (New Holland Publishers, 2016) comprises 70+ ‘narratives’ from survivors, family and community members, activists and professionals in two dozen countries, five continents, also with an accompanying website to bring all the contributors together, and a Twitter handle [book available from Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com, or high street booksellers].

See * HERE * for reviews of these books and for details of Hilary's other published book chapters, papers, presentations etc.

Hilary is a consultant sociologist and writer, and Adjunct Professor, Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics, Feinberg School of Medicine Northwestern University, Chicago (but normally resident in London). This is her professional website, to share thoughts on sociological analysis, social policy and good practice, especially in relation to female genital mutilation (FGM), harmful 'traditional' practices, child abuse, gendered violence and patriarchy.
(https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6684-2740)

A Hierarchy Of Harms And Agency In Patriarchy Incarnate

May 19, 2022

It was good to receive an invitation from doctoral law student Saarrah Ray to speak at the Oxford University ‘Four College’ event, this time on 20 May 2022, when students from Christ Church, Corpus Christi, Oriel and University Colleges come together, this year to consider female genital mutilation (FGM).

A number of excellent speakers are slated to make presentations, and I too will contribute, offering my developing perspective on the issues around the economics and politics of patriarchy incarnate and FGM.

Particularly, I am becoming convinced that this patriarchy incarnate arises at a range of levels of severity from the ‘trivial’ to the undeniably atrocious – all of them significant because these ‘levels’ feed into and reinforce each other.  Importantly, consideration of patriarchy incarnate invokes whenever it occurs this question:  ‘Where (and who) is the agency in this phenomenon?‘.

The answer to this question is generally that the agents of patriarchy incarnate, however it materialises, are men seeking wealth and influence; and the stark realities which lie behind that bald statement are cause for alarm to many of us.

The paper in which I explored this theme follows below.  May I suggest that you check out the links here to the various aspects of this topic?  You may find them alarming.

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Female Genital Mutilation & Child ‘Marriage’, Covid-19, Climate Change – and War: an Economic Perspective (CSW66)

March 15, 2022

The sixty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66), a part of the United Nations organisation, takes place (largely via Zoom) from Monday 14 to Friday 25 March 2022. 

My colleagues Dr Lori Post, Dr Tobe Levin von Gleichen, Lorraine Koonce-Farahmand Esq and I presented a session moderated by WUNRN manager Lois Herman on Tuesday 15 March at 12 noon EST.   Our theme was ‘The Impacts of Climate and Covid on FGM and Child Marriage‘. 

My own contribution, entitled Female Genital Mutilation & Child ‘Marriage’, Covid19, Climate Change – and War: an Economic Perspective (below) focuses on the economics of these situations – an aspect not often so far examined, but one which I am convinced is critical to all serious endeavours to eradicate FGM, Child, Early and Forced Marriage and other harmful ‘traditional’ practices.

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My particular paper follows below:

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Female Genital Mutilation In Russia

February 24, 2022

Today (24 February 2022) is the first day of the extraordinary military attack by Russia on its neighbour, Ukraine. There is absolutely no ‘reason’ for this assault beyond the fact that the Russian President (Validimir Putin) wanted to take back control of this sovereign nation, previously – but no more – part of the Soviet Union.  I fully understand therefore why the newspaper Russia Today, an English language state controlled reporting vehicle, is now being boycotted by most global readers.

I have however decided to share at this very point in time a Russia Today article which reported on female genital mutilation (FGM) on 6 February, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.  In it the RT journalist Anastasia Safronova writes about the excellent work of #EndFGM campaigners Fatou Mandiang Diatta of Senegal and Dr Carolyne Njue in Australia, and also includes some observations from me. But more significantly at this time Anastasia Safronova shares some little-known information concerning FGM actually in Russia. This is I think important.

Given the inexcusable invasion by Russia of Ukraine, and therefore the current particularly low standing of Russia Today, very unusually I will not just now give a link to the actual article.  I hope however that sharing the information which Anastasia carefully collated here reminds us that, as in every other corner of the world, there are always people who really want to help and support those who are vulnerable and in need.

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Zero Tolerance For FGM Began With Agitators Like Nawal El-Saadawi

February 6, 2022

6 February is the annual International Day of Zero Tolerance for (or to) Female Genital Mutilation.  Introduced in 2003 by Stella Obasanjo, the First Lady of Nigeria, during a conference organized by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC). Then, in 2012, the UN General Assembly formally designated February 6th as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

But the origins of the demand to #EndFGM came much earlier than that, with fighters such as Dame Eleanor Rathbone in her 1934 book entitled Child Marriage: The Indian Minotaur and Nawal El-Saadawi (seen here in a photograph by my friend and colleague Dr Tobe Levin) whose 1969 publication Women and Sex is one of many she wrote (55 books in all) concerning harmful traditional practices such as those earlier (and independently) addressed by Dame Eleanor.

We have already celebrated here the life and work to end FGM and child marriage in India of the British social researcher and politician Eleanor Rathbone (1872-1946), so now is the time to acknowledge also the huge contribution a generation later of Nawal El-Saadawi (1931-2021), the Egyptian public health physician, psychiatrist, author, and advocate of women’s rights, who died a year ago in March.

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Peaceful Protest Should Be Newsworthy Too

January 5, 2022

Often now people want to make their views known on the difficult issues of the day (or decade, or indeed century..). But to what extent may citizens challenge the law in drawing attention to these views?
Is it ethically – though maybe not legally – okay, say, to cause traffic jams as a protest against climate change?
Or perhaps – a more minority concern – to scale a palace rooftop in support of ‘dads’ rights’?

My letter to The Guardian published today suggests that if a concern is widespread, the media have a duty to report it as news before it becomes a matter of illegal action.  Below is the text of the letter.  What’s your view?

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Covid19 Has Increased Gender And Economic Divides

December 9, 2021

I was pleased to be invited by two colleagues, Lois Herman and Sadia Mir of WUNRN, the Women’s UN Report Network, to liaise as editor with them on this important paper.

It will be a while before full assessments can be made of how Covid19 has impacted on socio-economic and gender divides, but already it is clear that serious efforts are required, right now, to mitigate the already evident damage which this pandemic is inflicting at a global level.

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COP26, The Future, And Progressive Politics

November 23, 2021

The COP26 conference, held in Glasgow (Scotland) in November 2021 was an event with mixed outcomes. I have brought together here some thoughts about how those of us on the progressive side of politics can now move forward.  On one hand we need to engage people through the small things which are everyone’s concerns: clean air, recycling plastic etc.  And on the other we must all understand that population is a massive issue. One child less per family everywhere would be the biggest thing we could do to slow climate change and other looming environmental dangers.

This note, which I prepared for a presentation, gives some background to the recent COP26 meeting, provides some information on the critical issues around climate change and environmental sustainability, and suggests various levels at which political pressure and action to protect our planet, people and other living things on it may be appropriate.

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#FreeNazanin: Every Individual Has Human Rights. It’s Personal.

November 15, 2021

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian citizen and wife of British Richard Ratcliffe (holding her picture here), has now been detained for almost six years by the Iranian authorities since, about to return to the UK after a visit to her parents with her infant daughter, she was arrested in Tehran. Very sadly, her husband Richard has not seen Nazanin even once since that time. Instead, Richard has spent innumerable days, weeks and months seeking ways to bring Nazanin back home but – despite heroic efforts – to date without success.

On Christmas Day 2020 I received a phone call from a person in the Foreign Office.  His message was brief: ‘Your friend is safe in our care.’

This message concerned another British-Iranian, mentioned below, who had been wrongly detained in Iran. Whilst by no means the end of the story, that phone call marked the fundamental, essential and critical step in lifting the burden – much, much less for me than Richard and Nazanin’s –  of getting matters resolved.  I know very many of us hope every day that the British Government will now, immediately, secure the same outcome for Nazanin and her family.

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MIHPE: The Institute of Health Promotion and Education

October 29, 2021

I was pleased today to receive a letter telling me that, following their invitation, I have just become a Member of the Institute of Health Promotion and Education, an organisation ‘dedicated to improving standards as well as publicising Health Education and Promotion practice and theory’. It’s history spans over 60 years.

As any regular readers of my web-posts will know, I believe strongly that all of us working in fields such as my own who can, should keep in touch; and obviously one important way to do this is through professional organisations such as IHPE.

IHPE publishes the International Journal of Health Promotion and Education, in which, looking back, I published a paper on Health Education: The Androcentric Agenda many years ago. It’s good to see how far things have moved on since then, and to be associated with the IHPE’s sterling work.

Read more about Health Education and Health Promotion

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Child ‘Marriage’ Has No Fit With The International Day Of The Girl: Eleanor Rathbone (1934) and Iranian Law (2021)

October 10, 2021

11 October 2012 was the first annual date of the International Day of the Girl. This date, confirmed by the United Nations on 19 December 2011, arose from the work of Plan International in Canada, focusing on issues faced by girls around the world and how to resolve them.
One such critical issue is Child Marriage, a practice which has for at least a century been acknowledged to cause enormous harm (especially to girls and babies). But still it continues in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, and, yes, even in some modern first world nations.

There are various views about what constitutes ‘child’ marriage, but the general consensus is that it comprises marriage before the age of 18.  Let’s start our consideration of it with the suffragist Eleanor Rathbone. From there we shall move to reports of child marriage in the USA and in Britain, and on to continuing overt Iranian judicial justifications for it in 2020-21.

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Child, ‘White’ And Other Forms Of ‘Marriage’ In Iran And Afghanistan (And Child Brides As Baby-Production Machines)

August 25, 2021

21.08.22 Snodrops 298 (3)The withdrawal of Western armed forces from Afghanistan has brought brutally into focus how women and girls are treated in some Middle Eastern countries which adhere to strict Sharia (Islamic) law, via which their rights are eroded – not least by concepts of ‘marriage’ which few in the West know or understand. And now we learn that the horrifying practice of child ‘marriage’ is actually  becoming more common in adjoining Iran, a nation which may also benefit from current military manoeuvres and the subsequent reinforcement of Islamic law.

A House with Open Door, the recent book by British-Iranian anthropologist Kameel Ahmady, provides an important source of information about Islamic legal and socio-economic modes of ‘marriage’ in Iran (and other Islamic states).  Marriages may endure from one hour to 99 years, a man may have several wives, and children may be contracted into matrimony. The age at which adult Iranians formally marry by informed mutual consent is rising for largely economic reasons but many tensions exist within this arrangement, and there are numerous other versions of ‘marriage’, some to very young girls and all of them based on patriarchal power and interests. Nor are things much different in places like Pakistan or, in some respects, other countries in that general region, such as Egypt.

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A House With Open Door (Kameel Ahmady, 2021): My Foreword

August 14, 2021

We in the English-speaking parts of the world may be aware that life is different in various ways beyond our experience, but little is known by most of us about how family and domestic matters are conducted in the Middle East.  I was the adviser and editor for the English language version of A House with Open Door, a book about ‘informal’ or ‘white’ marriage, written by the British-Iranian anthropologist Kameel Ahmady.
In my editorial capacity I learned a lot about a culture and customs very different from my own,  where the focus is on upholding what are considered to be Shi’a Islamic constraints and requirements in regard to marriage.

Below is the Foreword I wrote for that book.

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Social Science At 16+ (Published in SOCIOLOGY, Vol.20, No 3)

August 8, 2021

Social Science at 16+ is a paper I published in Sociology in August 1986*. At that time there was considerable concern about the future of the Social Sciences as subjects in schools and colleges, this being the focus of my paper here.
And now, some 35 years later, we are again facing fears for the future of the Social Sciences and other non-STEM subjects such as the Arts.  Perhaps then this is a good point at which to revisit the original discussions about intended reductions in the breadth and scope of the curriculum in secondary and higher (tertiary) education.

*When I wrote this piece I was Hon. Secretary of ATSS, the Association of Teachers of Social Science (and Founding Hon. Secretary / Co-ordinator of FACTASS: The Forum of Academic and Teaching Associations in the Social Sciences). Since then ATSS has conjoined with the British Sociological Association, of which I was also an Executive member.

The Social Science at 16+ paper follows below:

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Patriarchy Incarnate

July 4, 2021

‘Patriarchy Incarnate’ is a term I first used in the context of FGM (female genital mutilation) almost a decade ago.  I saw it then, and I still see it, as the literal imposition of some men’s will on women’s bodies. But since that time I have begun to understand how the term can also be applied to other aspects of patriarchal imposition, both physical and psychological.  In the end little distinguishes soma and psyche; harm to either is harm to both, especially when the harm is inflicted knowingly by fellow human beings.

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Long-Covid, Data, Confidentiality And Scientist-Citizens

March 24, 2021

I recently had a modest involvement in a study concerning the use of clinical data in health care. The enquiry is wide-ranging but I hope I had something to contribute in terms of public confidence in the use of ‘their’ data for medical research.  I suggested that most people have scant idea of how such research works, and that it might be a good idea, along with the increasing engagement of ‘citizen-scientists’ (‘lay’ people who help to generate data) to have ‘scientist-citizens’ – science professionals who actively explain how the data is anonymized and used, and why they need it.

Below is the gist of my submission to the enquiry. The commentary focuses to a degree on Long-Covid – a very topical issue just now – and the UK National Health Service (NHS) but also has a wider take on medical science and on matters such as approaches to the eradication of female genital mutilation (FGM) and, in fact, my own long experience of auto-immune conditions.  I don’t usually write about myself, but maybe, given my own auto-immune conditions, it makes sense to do so just now, as we all recognise the need to know more about Long-Covid and similar conditions?  

I’d like to think that the combination of medical ‘scientist-citizens’ and properly engaged ‘citizen-scientists’, aka ‘patients’, could be quite powerful?  Could ‘the science’ move faster and / or better if more attention were paid to what patients have to say? I’d be interested to learn whether readers agree with what I suggest.

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International Women’s Day: A Thank You To My #EndFGM Colleagues And Friends

March 8, 2021

It was in the 1980s that my mother (now a centenarian) first told me about female genital mutilation (FGM).  She was active as a Quaker and as a member of Amnesty International (UK), and somehow this awful practice had come up in a discussion.  Could these stories of FGM be true, she asked? I promised, with my medic sister, to do my best to find out.

How could I know way back then that this earnest question by my Mum would come to expand my horizons, extend my networks and friendships, and shape my life? Read more…

Joining The Dots: Why FGM Studies Must Be Part Of All Relevant Professional Curricula – As The Covid-19 Pandemic Shows

December 10, 2020

Thursday 10  December 2020 was the final event in the Kings College, London Autumn series of presentations on Patriarchal Inscriptions.  My own contribution that day concerned the urgent need for an academic field of ‘FGM Studies’.
It is a truism that ‘science’ sees only what it chooses to consider.  The current Covid-19 pandemic (70+m cases) has received many multiples of the resources available to address FGM (200+m cases). Further, subject disciplines (e.g. Public Health, if not Epidemiology as such) which illuminate disadvantage are  less likely to gain political favour. Reflecting on this, I called my talk

Going solo, passing the buck or joining the dots?
Why a multi-disciplinary curriculum is essential in professional training (and practice) to eradicate female genital mutilation.

The current Covid-19 pandemic offers an opportunity to explore and compare the differences in approach between an acute viral epidemic and an enduring, entirely human agency / socially activated one such as female genital mutilation (FGM). It is nonetheless vital that both be addressed.

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Democracy And Populism – How Can We Reach ‘Alternative Facts’ Voters?

November 6, 2020

Sometimes we have to think beyond the specific, and examine the wider contexts of our lives.  The bigger picture is what has been bothering me for a long while, as we try to defend the rights of children and vulnerable adults in a currently very challenging global setting.  Our human rights, our health and even the well-being of the planet itself are currently threatened by the increasingly careless way that some first world states politicians at all levels are disrespecting, even disregarding,  democracy.

Climate change? Covid-19? Communities? Seemingly irrelevant to the powerful (and usually male) autocrats who lay claim to be our political leaders. Often, they rely on what a US press secretary once termed ‘alternative facts‘. But these politicians are elected by us, or at least by our fellow citizens.

In The Guardian of 3 November 2020 the columnist Zoe Williams rightly reminds us that the refocusing of politics lies in the hand of voters.  How, she asks, can we democratically resist populism, which is the route to power of many autocrats and worse?

This is the Guardian letters response which I and, independently, two other readers (Michael Meadowcroft and Derrick Joad) offered to her question:

We won’t defeat Farage’s populism without a plan.

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BAME Birthing With Colour: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Has Many Meanings and Contexts – And The Buck Stops… Where?

October 22, 2020

Saturday 7 November 2020 is the date for the online conference BAME Birthing with Colour, at which I have been asked to talk on FGM, an issue which encompasses many complex challenges for those seeking to end it. Many women and girls seek help only when the harm has already reached them and they need urgent attention for gynaecological or obstetric problems; and often, like the medics, other sectors of the FGM prevention community are too hard pressed and focused on the imperative for action to have much time to reflect on the wider contexts in which this cruel abuse of women and girls’ human rights occurs.

In preparing my presentation for BAME Birthing with Colour I have drawn on a wider social, psychological and economic analysis of FGM, in the hope that such an overview can enhance perspectives around the important work in which activists and professionals are engaged as they strive to make FGM history forever.  My talk is now ‘in the can’, ready to go on Saturday 7 November.  Below are some notes I made for my presentation. I hope they may be useful when we come to discuss the morning’s  programme of formal presentations.

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