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Bullet Hole: A Play About What Female Genital Mutilation [FGM] Can Do To Your Mind

October 12, 2018

Art and performance are powerful ways to convey messages on difficult topics.  Bullet Hole, a play by Gloria Williams about the circumstances in which three different London-based women who have had FGM find themselves, is a welcome addition to this genre. The play leaves no-one in any doubt that FGM has long-lasting and cruel outcomes, both physically and psychologically; but the message is also that with support women can move on.  The question is, how often is such support available? And what are we doing anyway, to stop FGM?

Bullet Hole, presented by Naiad Productions, is showing from 2 – 27 October 2018, at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London.  The director is Lara Genovese, and the cast are Gloria Williams, Doreene Blackstock  and Anni Domingo.

After the performance on Wednesday 10 October a number of us joined the audience for a panel discussion:

On Wednesday 10 October the panel comprised Sadia Hameed (Ex-Muslims), midwife-campaigner Joy Clarke, Mabel Evans (Vavengers), Ann-Marie Wilson (28 Too Many), midwife-campaigner Comfort Momoh MBE and myself.  Other panel members will be present on Thursday 18 October.

Where were the men?
One striking aspect of the play is that, whilst all the onstage actors are women, there lurk behind the scene some very significant men.  How unconstrained they are in their cruelty as husbands, and how entitled they feel in their insistence on tradition, we are left to muse; but the characters onstage engage us tightly as we discover the pain each of them is experiencing, and the different ways in which each chooses to face up (or not) to her situation. FGM is patriarchy incarnate – the literal imposition of (some) men’s will on women’s bodies. What is in no doubt as we follow the play’s actors is that FGM continues to cause great distress for each of the women we see.

Different ways of seeing
Our panel had much to consider in response to the performance.  For some the focus was on the physical and mental pain of FGM as a harmful traditional practice, whilst others emphasised the intimidating role of religious beliefs (usually promoted by men as community leaders) and the failure in traditional communities to recognise human rights or to educate girls and their families about the dangers of FGM.  All of us wanted everyone to know that FGM is not ‘just’ a crime of violence against the person, but it is also an assault on the core identity and integrity of the victim. She will seek to survive in whatever mode she chooses, but she will not be the same person as before.

Wider contexts
My contribution was then to extend these concerns into the spheres of politics, economics and policy.  Many of us now know that FGM is dangerous and wrong, but how are we to convince those with the power to change things that making FGM is history is an urgent priority?  More and more, I am convinced that we have to show how FGM and other gendered violence distorts economies; it has massive costs in the communities where it happens and it harms us all.

Moving forward
Everyone on the panel agreed that now is the time to press for proper policies and their implementation in the UK as well as elsewhere – clarity about the need for psychological as well as physical support for survivors, enough attention to the FGM aspects of the PSHE curriculum in schools, adequate guidance on mandatory reporting, provision of safe places for women and girls who want to escape FGM or to seek help after it, full liaison between child safeguarding boards and other locally-based provision (who has the overarching national responsibility?), and so on.

The central message
But on this occasion, with such a powerful performance, the last word has to go to those involved in the play we had just seen.  Sometimes the most important message is simply this:  FGM hurts people, and it has to stop.


Your Comments on this topic are welcome. 
Please post them in the box which follows these announcements….

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Books by Hilary Burrage on female genital mutilation

18.04.12 FGM books together IMG_3336 (3).JPG

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.


There is a free FGM hotline for anyone in the UK: 0800 028 3550, or email:

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


[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.]


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. magicwoman786 permalink
    October 12, 2018 23:56

    Awesome, Hilary! I actually met Ann-Marie Wilson in New York 2 weeks ago when 28 Too Many won the Thomson Reuters Trust Award. She is so sweet.  Much love, Sayydah xoxo

    • October 13, 2018 11:37

      Thanks Sayydah! Glad you like the blog.
      And yes, it was a very good event, really nice to see Ann-Marie and other friends again.

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