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Letter To The Guardian On FGM And Girls’ Education

October 7, 2017

I was pleased to have a letter published today in the main Guardian, and yesterday in Society Guardian, in response to an article of 4 October.
The original piece, supported by Opportunity International UK and entitled ‘Educating girls: the key to tackling poverty‘, was a report on a Guardian Roundtable discussion which considered several obstacles to girls’ education including taboos around menstruation and child marriage, but did not mention FGM.
Here is what I wrote:

Letter to the EditorThe Guardian, published 6 October 2017

Your sponsored roundtable on Educating Girls (Society, 4 October) is to be commended both for laying bare the critical need to address this issue in general, and for acknowledging the complications and taboos around menstruation as a severe obstacle to progress.

It is difficult to understand, however, why the painful topic of female genital mutilation (FGM) was not also a focus of discussion.  One required element in some communities of the lengthy initiation ceremonies to ‘adulthood’ mentioned in the report is that girls must undergo FGM.  This cruel initiation, often at or just before puberty, is the marker by which potential husbands (often already owners of other wives) are in traditional thinking assured of their soon-to-be purchased wife’s virginity.  Raising a girl and paying for her FGM is expensive – ceremonies are often held around harvest time when there’s more money – and bride price is increased if the girl-woman is ‘pure’.

Until girls are no longer be perceived a chattels for exchange on the open market, the practices of FGM and early ‘marriage’ (child rape) will continue. As your commentators acknowledge, FGM and early marriage will only be abandoned once men and women alike see these practices as patriarchy incarnate, the literal imposition of men’s power on female bodies.

Assumed patriarchal entitlement remains to be challenged in many parts of the world, but nowhere more than in places where its imposition actually precludes young women even receiving an education which will empower both them personally and their wider communities.

Hilary Burrage

Author, Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation, and Female Mutilation

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Books by Hilary Burrage on female genital mutilation

Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: A UK Perspective (Hilary Burrage, Ashgate / Routledge 2015).   Full contents and reviews   HERE.

FEMALE MUTILATION: The truth behind the horrifying global practice of female genital mutilation  (Hilary Burrage, New Holland Publishers 2016).   Full contents and reviews   HERE.

FURTHER INFORMATION AND ACTION

There is a free FGM hotline for anyone in the UK: 0800 028 3550, or email:fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk

Details of NHS Specialist Services for FGM here.

More info and posts on FGM here.

Activists, service providers and researchers may like to join the LinkedIn group Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): Information, reports and research, which has several hundred members from around the world.

The (free) #NoFGM Daily News carries reports of all items shared on Twitter that day about FGM – brings many organisations and developments into focus.

Also available to follow at no cost or obligation is the #NoFGM_USA Daily News.

Twitter accounts:          @NoFGM_UK  @NoFGMBookUK @FemaleMutlnBook  @FGMStatement  @NoFGM_USA @NoFGM_Kenya  @NoFGM_France  @GuardianEndFGM [tag for all: #NoFGM] and @StopMGM.

Facebook page: #NoFGM – a crime against humanity

Email contact: via Hilary

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[NB The Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, which has a primary focus on FGM, is clear that in formal discourse any term other than ‘mutilation’ concedes damagingly to the cultural relativists – though the terms employed may of necessity vary in informal discussion with those who by tradition use alternative vocabulary. See the Feminist Statement on the Naming and Abolition of Female Genital Mutilation,  The Bamako Declaration: Female Genital Mutilation Terminology and the debate about Anthr/Apologists on this website.]

PLEASE NOTE:

This article concerns approaches to the eradication specifically of FGM.  I am also categorically opposed to MGM, but that is not the focus of this particular piece.

Anyone wishing to offer additional comment on more general considerations around infant and juvenile genital mutilation is asked please to do so via these relevant dedicated threads.

Discussion of the general issues re M/FGM will not be published unless they are posted on these dedicated pages. Thanks.

 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan McLucas permalink
    October 9, 2017 14:44

    Hilary, Great letter! I’m glad they published it. Susan McLucas Healthy Tomorrow

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