Skip to content

Hilary Burrage's website comprises mostly her sociological papers and articles about patriarchy, (gendered) harmful practices and, specifically, female genital mutilation / FGM, plus thoughts on science, ecological and policy issues.

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 / (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 /, 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. (

Belgravia In Bloom ’23

May 29, 2023

Have you heard of Belgravia in Bloom? It’s a more relaxed and open-to-all mini version of the globally renown nearby (and concurrent) Chelsea Flower Show. Now in its eight year, this festival of flowers is definitely… blossoming.

I’ve just joined POST, a new(ish) blogging site, and I thought I’d start with something positive, a few nice photos and a bit of London history.  Maybe you’d like to take a look? Read more…

Dr Phoebe Abe-Okwonga: FGM Activist And Physician

May 19, 2023

Dr Phoebe Abe-Okwonga MB ChB, MSc(CTM ), FRSA is a General Practitioner (GP) and Community Health physician who has practised for many years at the Yiewsley Health Centre in West Drayton, Greater London, England – where she holds an hour-long free and open clinic every Monday and Friday lunchtime, even in lockdown, for any woman who has undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).

Phoebe, a widowed mother of five originally from Uganda, completed her medical studies decades ago in the UK and has been concerned about FGM for many years. There are, she says, some 200 million women and girls now alive who have endured FGM, and around 130 to 140 thousand of them live in the UK.

Read more…

The Hurt Of Female Genital Mutilation Doesn’t Go Away Over The Years

March 26, 2023

23.02.28 Phoebe AbeA conversation about FGM today with my friend and colleague Dr Phoebe Abe-Okwonga has raised some quite important questions about ‘Where do we go from here?’. Phoebe has been working in her pro bono London clinic with FGM victims / ‘survivors’ for many years, so she has a massively valuable perspective on what’s happening.  Unfortunately, the answer is: We’re not doing enough.   People and things to be recorded change over the years, and perhaps the UK approach to FGM hasn’t always kept up?

Read more…

Twenty Years Of Zero Tolerance Day To #EndFGM: But No End To Gender Debates And Genital ‘Treatments’

February 6, 2023

February 6 is International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.  Begun twenty years ago today (2023), the Zero Tolerance initiative has seen considerable success. But much remains to be done.  One major issue is that other forms of elective genital surgery / ‘cutting’ continue unimpeded: male circumcision, genital cosmetic surgery and transgender surgeries are widely accepted, even in some cases for minors unavoidably unable to give informed consent. This is a major problem for #EndFGM.

Read more…

The Route To End FGM: Moving From ‘Multi-Agency’ Via Multi-Disciplinary To Public Health And Economics

October 1, 2022

Efforts to end female genital mutilation (FGM) have for decades been an important element in promoting the health of women and girls in many parts of the world; but still this gendered harmful practice continues.

Abstract: In this piece, written for the journal EC Gynaecology and primarily as a ‘conversation’ with obstetric and gynaecological clinicians whether in the ‘developed’ or the ‘developing’ world, I seek to

• Create connections between the clinical treatment/care of women and girls with female genital (‘sexual’) mutilation (FGM) and various of the environments in which the practice continues;
• Establish that two themes – economics and patriarchy – are critical to a full understanding of this harmful practice; and
• Explore ways in which colleague support across disciplinary boundaries, along with a willingness to try new approaches to the problem, may help to enable a Public Health framework leading to the eradication of FGM.

I also note in the above contexts some of the personal discomforts and very different circumstances which various professionals, amongst them clinicians, may experience as they move towards a wider perspective on FGM; and I explore, in anticipation I hope of further discussion, possible ways forward to resolve these valid potential challenges or problems.

A web-linked version of my paper, published on 29 September 2022, follows below:

Read more…

Dawoodi Bohra Head Priest Must Forbid #FGM As He Visits Britain

August 1, 2022

The Dawoodi Bohras are a religious sect of the Ismali branch of Shia Islam. Whilst originating in India, Pakistan, SE Asia and nearby Africa, many of the million or more adherents, women and men alike, are well educated, professional people now living in Europe, North America and Australia,   For most of them the idea of female genital mutilation (FGM)* in any form is abhorrent, even though some followers of the Islamic faith still insist on it.

And so, between the competing perspectives of ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ Bohras lies a serious conflict: the modernists, especially in places like the USA and Britain, demand that FGM be forbidden; but the traditionalists, headed up by their Syedna (‘leader’) Mufaddal Saifuddin, are not as yet convinced.

Bohras in Britain have therefore called for a demonstration, demanding that the Syedna declare FGM is forbidden, during his visit to London in August 2022:

🗓 Friday 5 August 2022
📍 Mohammedi Complex, Rowdell Road, Northolt, London, UB5 6AG
⏰ 12.30pm- 3.30pm

Anyone nervous about being identified is invited to bring, or ask on arrival for, a mask.

Below is the Open Letter, supported and published by various organisations and individuals, which explains the issues around FGM which Dawoodi Bohras in the UK face:

Read more…

A Hierarchy Of Harms And Agency In Patriarchy Incarnate

May 20, 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 made presentations, and I too contributed, 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.

Read more…

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.

Message attachment

My particular paper follows below:

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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?

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

#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.

Read more…

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

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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:

Read more…

%d bloggers like this: