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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 / (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 the Guardian bookshop; or from /, or high street booksellers].

Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation was launched on 4 November 2015 at The Guardian offices in London (introductory talk here) and both books were presented at a reception hosted by the Norwegian Embassy for the Inter-African Committee FGM Conference at the United Nations in Geneva, on 10 May 2016.

>Hilary Burrage has written the most definitive book ever on FGM. An invaluable tool to help eradicate it worldwide. A personal triumph. (The Guardian)
> Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation provides an insightful and thorough discussion of the problems facing women in the UK who have encountered female genital mutilation (FGM), and is an excellent book. The book is divided into 12 chapters covering demography, perceptions and beliefs, power, clinical issues including mandatory reporting, legislation and governance, prevention and politics. The book is fully referenced throughout. … . This is a book that makes one consider the issues surrounding FGM and the challenges facing health professionals. [It] is an interesting and very readable book, which provides background and insight, and which would be suitable for anyone interested in this topic, health professionals working within sexual health, and anyone involved in teaching this topical and emotive subject. (Su Everett, BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health)
>… Outraged at ineffective child protection, Burrage provides a comprehensive, scholarly yet accessible guide – the first ethically correct textbook in the world about FGM and among the best ever – to professionals and all people of conscience. (Tobe Levin von Gleichen, Harvard and Oxford Universities)
>…. The book provides many references, a website to work with on enhancing the reader’s knowledge, and a list of organisations working on this issue… [and] provides social workers, as well as social policy makers, researchers and activists, with a wide comparative canvass, facts, and an honest discussion of the likelihood of eradication of FGM in the near future, demonstrating the author’s understanding and analysis of the considerable obstacles needed to be confronted, if we are to achieve this very necessary objective. (Shulamit Ramon, International Federation of Social Workers)
>The best book ever written about the sensitive subject of FGM : ***** (Sayydah Garrett, Pastoralist Child Foundation
>Essential insights on female genital mutilation … Sociologist Hilary Burrage’s intention is “to start a wider conversation about FGM and the challenges it produces” and in this book she succeeds admirably… FGM is a “deeply disturbing form of child abuse” with detrimental life-changing consequences that need to be tackled in a manner that is as vigorous as it is cognisant of its social and cultural complexity. Burrage, who adheres to a feminist understanding of FGM, proposes a no-nonsense 15-point plan that ranges from closing existing legal loopholes to mandatory reporting of cases, from tackling terminology to remedying the present haphazard child-protection provision… Engagingly written and packed with information, this book is a must-read. (Michal Boncza, Morning Star)
REVIEWS of FEMALE MUTILATION: The truth behind the horrifying global practice of female genital mutilation:
> This is the essential companion volume to Hilary Burrage's 'Eradicating Female Mutilation'. While the latter provides a broad and deep perspective on the practice of FGM, this book gives space for the voices of victims and practitioners in the field. The author is to be commended for bringing together such a wide range of personal narratives... to consign a vile abuse of women to the dustbin of history. You will not fail to be engaged... by these accounts, even though some are harrowing. "Female Mutilation' is a landmark contribution to the literature on FGM.: Amazon ***** (Ron Stewart and another reader)

Hilary Burrage is also the author of many other papers, policy submissions, posts, reviews and chapters on FGM, including a Chapter on ‘Female Genital Mutilation and Genital Surgeries’ in the Routledge International Handbook of Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health, edited by Jane M. Ussher, Joan C. Chrisler and Janette Perz (published October 2019)

Hilary is a consultant sociologist and writer ( This is her professional website, to share thoughts on sociological analysis, social policy and good practice, especially in relation to female genital mutilation (FGM), child abuse, gendered violence and patriarchy. Hilary lives in London.

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.

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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:

Read more…

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…

Statements By Kameel Ahmady And A Member Of The Iranian Sociological Association

February 4, 2021

Kameel Ahmady is a British-Iranian-anthropologist who has for many years investigated and campaigned against female genital mutilation (FGM), child and other non-consensual marriage (CEFM), the persecution of e.g. gay people (LGBT) and other human rights abuses. In 2019 he was arrested in Iran and held in solitary confinement, accused of activities against the state; and in late 2020 he received a sentence of some ten years imprisonment. Shortly thereafter he escaped from Iran and now lives in Britain.  (Details of these events here.)

At the same time as the court in Tehran decided his sentence rumours about sexually inappropriate behaviour by Kameel Ahmady began to circulate on social media.  These resulted in his membership of the Iranian Sociological Association being rescinded.  Below are two statements (both in approximate English translations) arising from and challenging this accusation and the ISA action arising from it. Read more…

Kameel Ahmady, British-Iranian Anthropologist, Detained In Iran – News Updates (August 2019 to February 2021)

February 3, 2021

This photograph is of my friend and colleague, the British-Iranian anthropologist Kameel Ahmady, in happier times when he kindly came to support my book launch, and attended the U.N. FGM conference in Geneva in 2016.

But in mid-August 2019 Kameel was detained, and months later bailed, in Iran on vague and political criminal charges relating to ‘national security’.  The upshot was a verdict of nine years’ imprisonment and an unthinkably massive fine.

Just after his sentence however Kameel, his wife Shafagh Rahmani and their little son managed in December 2020 / January 2021 to escape to Britain, from where he hopes to continue reporting on female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and ‘white marriage’ in the Middle-East
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Kameel Ahmady’s Statement On His Trial And Subsequent Escape To Britain

February 3, 2021

My friend and colleague, the social anthropologist Kameel Ahmady, is a British-Iranian who was arrested in Tehran in August 2019 on charges concerning state security.  In December 2020 he was found guilty by the court of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, and sentenced to more than nine years in prison, along with a truly massive fine.  What follows is his Statement on his work in Iran, the trial and his subsequent decision to escape to Britain.

A summary of events to date is available here.

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Kameel Ahmady: His Defence Appeal Against Imprisonment

February 3, 2021

My friend and colleague, the social anthropologist Kameel Ahmady, is a British-Iranian who was arrested in Tehran in August 2019 on charges concerning state security.  In December 2020 he was found guilty by the court of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, and sentenced to more than nine years in prison, along with a truly massive fine. He decided however to escape from Iran and now lives in Britain.  What follows is the English version of his appeal, written in Farsi, against the  judgement.

A summary of events to date is available here.

I decided to make the main parts of my verdict and summary of my defence public in order for people to know how and why I was sentenced, accusations I have countered with real evidence that I believe will prove my innocence. Let them be recorded in history, which is the best judge.
Kameel Ahmady

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Kameel Ahmady: Verdict Of His 2019-2020 Trial In Iran

February 3, 2021

My friend and colleague, the social anthropologist Kameel Ahmady, is a British-Iranian who was arrested in Tehran in August 2019 on charges concerning state security.  In December 2020 he was found guilty by the court of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, and sentenced to more than nine years in prison, along with a truly massive fine. He decided however to escape from Iran and now lives in Britain.  What follows is a slightly abbreviated English version of the original judgement, which was written in Farsi.

A summary of events to date is available here. 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.

There are several conclusions which may be drawn from comparing work to halt Covid-19 and FGM, not least that

  • some human health and socio-economic conditions receive more public recognition and resourcing than others;
  • laboratory scientific research is infinitely better geared and ready to tackle viral infections, than is so-called ‘social medicine’ to resolve dis-ease arising solely from intentional human agency;
  • cross-disciplinary laboratory research is of more interest to more people (workers, politicians and the public) than is the less dramatic issue-by-issue unpicking of ‘social agency’ problems by public health specialists;
  • research and other work by agencies (such as public health) which shine a light on inequalities and harm may find their discipline under-resourced, a ‘Cinderella science’; politicians rarely much appreciate consistent effort to disclose systematic disadvantage.

All these observations can be applied in respect of gender, ethnicity, age, status and location, if we compare global and national efforts to address Covid-19 and FGM.

It is time for those in different disciplines who are concerned with eradicating FGM to gear up effectively to joint working, and to insist that the suffering and socio-economic damage of FGM is as valid an area of endeavor as any other field of epidemiology and public health.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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