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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, 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. (

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.

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…

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.

Read more…

An Economic Deficit Index for FGM? Human Capital, Sustainable Development And Land

September 28, 2020

FAWCO is an American / International women’s voluntary organisation which promotes peace and international goodwill.  This year FAWCO has chosen to address issues around FGM (female genital mutilation), so it was good to talk via the internet with members yesterday about the connections between economics and FGM. There is now some general recognition of the costs which would accrue if the health consequences of FGM were properly addressed, but still little acknowledgement of the multiple other economic and resource costs and implications of this cruel practice. 

Recent years have seen the creation of a number of public health and policy indicators for specific factors which demonstrate the wellness or otherwise of particular groups within societies.  

Now, I suggest, is the time to extend that trend to include an index for the economic impact of female genital mutilation and maybe other traditional / harmful practices. 

Perhaps if we measure the economic impact ‘as well as’ the harm to real human beings, more politicians and policy makers will sit up and take notice?

Read more…

Protect ‘Jasmine’ From FGM: The Home Secretary’s Position Is Hypocritical

July 7, 2020

‘Jasmine’ is 11 years old and has lived with her mother in the U.K. for some 8 years, all her conscious life.  They have only Bahraini citizenship, but are of Sudanese origin.  The Home Secretary wants to refuse them asylum although the Family Court has ruled very clearly that Jasmine is in serious danger of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and thus deportation should not happen.
The UK has a zero tolerance policy on FGM. It is hypocritical to want to send a child to a place where that will likely be her fate, and still to hold no proper data on the incidence of these sorts of cases.

Many of us are supporting a petition to protect Jasmine which has been instigated by Dr Charlotte Proudman, a human rights barrister.  You may wish to add your name too:

Protect Jasmine from FGM and allow her to stay in the UK


Read more…

Female Genital Mutilation And Economics (An Oxford Against Cutting Seminar)

July 6, 2020

It was a pleasure this morning to be the speaker for a Zoom seminar hosted by  Oxford Against Cutting and chaired by their Community Outreach Director, Kaddy Touray.  Our theme was Female Genital Mutilation and Economics.
I addressed two aspects of this theme: first, the economic factors and impacts of FGM for individuals and families; and second, these factors and impacts for wider communities and nations. Below is a summary of my talk and of some of the discussion which followed it:

Read more…

The Bamako Declaration Revisited: Female Genital Mutilation Terminology (Mali, 2005)

April 6, 2020

11.04.19 globe 002aaaaaThe term ‘female genital mutilation’ (FGM) was adopted in 1990 by the Inter-African Committee (IAC) on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, and in 1991 the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that the United Nations adopt it as well.  It has now been confirmed by the United Nations and the World Health Organisation.  The turning point in this debate was the Bamako Declaration of 6 April 2005, issued by the sixth General Assembly of the IAC, in Mali.

Now, some fifteen years later, it is perhaps time to remind ourselves about the significance of this globally important step towards the eradication of FGM.

An lightly edited (abbreviated) version of the Bamako message follows below:

Read more…

Book Review: The Mind Is Not The Heart (Eva J. Salber, 1989)

March 1, 2020

Eva J. Salber’s book, The Mind is not the Heart: Recollections of a Woman Physician, was first published in 1989, and I was lucky enough in 1990 to be asked to write a review of it for the journal Sociology of Health and Illness.
Thirty years later this book is still available, and people are still reading it. so here is my small contribution to Dr Salber’s literary profile.
The book is now available in hard and paperback, and on Kindle.

One further observation: I was startled on revisiting my review to see that, Dr Salber having emphasised the failure of South Africa and the USA to have a national health service, I actually ended my commentary with concerns about the viability of the British NHS, even back all those years ago when the UK was governed by a previous Conservative Government.  Some things for the public good, Eva Salber might agree, require unceasing vigilance even when the battle seems to have been won.

Read more…

International Zero Tolerance For FGM Day ~ The U.K. Action:FGM Manifesto

February 6, 2020

The 6th February every year since 2003 has been International Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Day.  It has also this year been an occasion for some of us to present at No.10 Downing Street, London, a Manifesto on FGM and other forms of harmful practice / gendered violence, for the attention of the British Prime Minister.  The Manifesto is the work of the voluntary collaborative group Action:FGM.  We have taken many months to refine the Manifesto and we seek to represent the views of a wide range of survivors, activists and others who work in the field of #EndFGM.

You can read the Manifesto below:

Read more…

Patriarchs And Proxy Perpetrators? Men And Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

February 5, 2020

I visited St Antony’s College Middle East Centre, Oxford University, today (5 February 2020) as guest of Dr Soraya Tremayne, to give a presentation in the run-up to International Zero Tolerance for FGM Day tomorrow. My theme was the necessity to ensure that men are brought onside as activists to #EndFGM. I looked at ways in which, traditionally, men have been mostly unengaged in the realities of FGM (beyond their economic interests and an insistence on ‘purity’) and perhaps how, drawing on recent studies of masculine nurturative behaviour in Egypt, this might be changed.

My write-up of the presentation is below:

Read more…

Our Human Rights, Civil Society And Brexit

October 18, 2019

Human rights cannot be a matter of pick and mix. We either have our rights to liberty, safety, free speech, associations and faith of our choosing, and much more; or we don’t.
As I have explained before, I am very concerned about the impact that the UK leaving the European Union (EU), Brexit, would have on efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) in Europe. But ‘just’ that one concern cannot be isolated from the many other issues which Brexit presents.

Brexit was conceived and supported by people who want the EU to fail, yet any UK government that is committed to the rule of law and democracy should want the EU to thrive….  One way emboldens forces of division and nationalism; the other way strengthens the project that was founded to resist those forces.  (Rafael Behr, 16 October 2019.)

Read more…

Medically Unnecessary Genital Cutting And The Rights Of The Child: Moving Toward Consensus

September 26, 2019

It has always been my belief that male ‘circumcision’ (also known as Male Genital Mutilation or ‘Cutting’) is, like Female Genital Mutilation, a denial of the fundamental human right to bodily integrity – especially when the person concerned is too young, or otherwise unable freely, to give informed consent to such an act. Today a declaration to that effect, initiated by Brian Earp and edited and agreed jointly by 90 academics including myself, has been published. The text refers expressly to so-called genital ‘surgery’ or ‘modification’ in Western societies, but in large part I’d say it applies also to genital ‘cutting’ in any context.

Below is the abstract for the paper, which is published with open access in The American Journal of Bioethics 19(10):17-28:

Read more…

Routledge International Handbook Of Women’s Sexual And Reproductive Health

September 23, 2019

The Routledge International Handbook of Sexual and Reproductive Health, edited by Jane M. Ussher, Joan C. Chrisler, Janette Perz, is the result of a collaboration between the joint editors and many different authors.  I am pleased to be one of them, having written Chapter 33, on Female Genital Mutilation and Genital Surgeries.

The e-version of the book is available from today (23 September 2019) and the hardback version will be published on 11 October.

Below is a summary of the book as a whole, and also a summary of my particular chapter:

Read more…

‘Recent, Relevant Experience’: How CATE Legitimates Narrowly Defined Concepts Of Teacher Education (Boxall & Burrage, 1989)

September 9, 2019

Some thirty years ago now, there was considerable concern about what curriculum should be offered in the professional training of teachers.  How to define educational ‘problems’ and identify ‘solutions’ is probably a matter of eternal debate.

Indeed, these concerns continue to demand attention even now, so perhaps this is a good time to share the paper which Waltraud Boxall and I published in the Journal of Further and Higher Education (Volume 13, Number 3) way back in Autumn 1989?


In a paper published in 2006 William Taylor describes CATE in this way:

The Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (CATE) was set up in 1984 to offer advice to the Secretary of State on the approval of courses of initial teacher training. Such accreditation must be distinguished from academic validation, which is the responsibility of universities and the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA). Initial training courses must now satisfy published criteria as to qualifications for entry, length, balance of content, professional experience, and curriculum coverage. In particular, undergraduate courses must include at least two years of subject study at a level appropriate to higher education. Staff concerned with pedagogy are also required to have recent and successful experience of school teaching.

The paper written by Waltraud Boxall and myself is reproduced below: Read more…

Brexit Will Harm UK Work To End Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

July 28, 2019

I rarely re-post material I’ve already published, but this is an exception. Given the shifts in the UK political landscape over the past week or so, I am pleased that London4Europe has today republished my piece on FGM and Brexit, originally posted by UK in a Changing Europe.  Taking a more political position than usual in my work on FGM, I fear the damage Brexit would inflict is already starting to have impact. Intolerance and xenophobia are features of the UK’s current socio-political turmoil, and this cannot help us in seeking to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.

Here is the piece as it has now been republished:

Read more…

Epidemiology And Community Health: A Strained Connection?

July 2, 2019

The (dis?)connections between epidemiology as a field of enquiry, and the practice of community health in everyday reality, have interested me throughout my academic life.
How do the findings of research into health, illness and socio-economic context translate into public policy and work on the ground to improve people’s fitness and well-being? Or don’t they? – a question I find myself asking quite often now and which, looking back, I have been wondering about for quite a long time.

I was reminded of this much earlier paper (below; originally published in Social Science and Medicine – download text here ) just today because I saw it had recently been cited by some others who also ponder these questions. Perhaps we collectively still have work to do?

Read more…

End Female Genital Mutilation Programmes: Research And Evaluation

May 25, 2019

The UK Government National Audit Office recently invited submissions around their examination of the effectiveness of official development assistance.  Evaluation is an aspect of work on programmes to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) which has interested me as a sociologist for quite a while.  I therefore suggested some research questions which may be of interest to them or DfID.  National and international support for work to EndFGM is essential and it is critical that we continue to learn which aspects of these programmes are likely to have most positive impact.

There is a growing realisation that to achieve maximum impact, programmes of FGM eradication must be underpinned by a cogent discipline and understanding of what FGM is and how it maintains its legitimacy in the eyes of those who practise it: parallels here might be the studies of substance abuse or premature / teenage pregnancy.  FGM as an academic field is only now beginning to take shape (for instance, from the work at Oxford, Northwestern and other universities – please add other / your own FGM Studies courses in the Comments below). A critical part of the developing FGM Studies paradigm/s will be the development of even more effective research ‘toolkits’ to evaluate programmes of eradication at the local level, building on the pioneering global evaluations of EndFGM programmes by the UNFPA-UNICEF to establish FGM Studies as an academic discipline in its own right.

Read more…

Female Genital Mutilation And Gender Politics In Modern Egypt

February 11, 2019

In 2018 I wrote a review of three books on Egyptian gender politics for the journal Left History.  This essay has just now been published in Vol. 22, No. 1 (2018).  In my review I seek to understand the rationales by which female genital mutilation (FGM) continues in Egypt in a context where it seems both that many men strive to maintain patriarchy and also to demonstrate their nurturing intent, and that women try to reconcile their ‘modern’ and traditional roles. I am also critical in that field researchers did not challenge post-interview some respondents’ beliefs that FGM is necessary and harmless.

Maria Frederika Malmstrὅm The Politics of Female Circumcision in Egypt: Gender, Sexuality and the Construction of Identity (2016) I.B. Tauris, London and New York : 244 pp

Heidi Morrison Childhood and Colonial Modernity in Egypt (2015) Palgrave Macmillan, London and New York : 176 pp

Nefissa Naguib Nurturing Masculinities: Men, Food and Family in Contemporary Egypt (2015) University of Texas Press, Austin TX : 144 pp

Read more…

Westminster FGM Event: ‘Cutting Season’ Film, FGM In Canada Petition, Role Of UK GPs And National FGM Centre Funding

February 10, 2019

I was pleased to collaborate with Sarah Champion MP and her team on the event Sarah held in the House of Commons on 7 February 2019. A packed Jubilee Room audience saw the BBC version of Canadian film-maker Giselle Portenier’s documentary on FGM safe houses in Tanzania, followed by a lively Q and A. The panelists were Dr Phoebe Abe-Okwonga, Leethen Bartholomew, Cllr Anita Lower and me. Topics addressed included the need for Canada to take FGM seriously, how GPs in the UK can be supported to provide care for FGM survivors and potential victims, and funding for the UK National FGM Centre,

Read more…

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