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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.

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?

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.)

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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:

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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…

Statement On The Detention In Iran Of Social Anthropologist Kameel Ahmady

August 21, 2019


21 August 2019

We the undersigned are academics and social researchers in issues concerning women and girls.

We note with sadness the arrest and detention in Iran of our colleague (and friend), the acclaimed British-Iranian social anthropologist and researcher Kameel Ahmady. [1]

As awards for, and recognition of, his work demonstrate, [2] Kameel’s studies have contributed significantly to our understanding of very important matters such as female genital mutilation and child marriage in the Middle East.  That dialogue must continue.

We respectfully appeal to the Iranian authorities to release Mr Ahmady from imprisonment as a matter of urgency.

Should any legal charges against him continue, we also ask the authorities in Tehran immediately to permit Kameel access to legal representation of his free choice.

Kameel Ahmady is a globally respected academic and researcher whose work has made invaluable contributions to the fields of his endeavours. 

We thank the Iranian authorities for their understanding of our concerns about the present situation, to which we hope a positive resolution acceptable to all parties will be achieved very shortly.

1. Kameel Ahmady Is Detained In Iran - News Updates
2. Kameel Ahmady - Publications, Achievements and CV

Signed:                Institution / affiliation

(see below for signatories)

If you are an academic, social researcher or similar and you would like to append your name and organisation to this Statement, please add your details in the Comment box below, or email your name and affiliation to Hilary [at] HilaryBurrage [dot] com, with the header ‘Kameel Ahmady Statement’.

Your support will then be added to the list of names below, and we will try to keep you informed of developments. Thank you.


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:

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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?

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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.

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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…

Progress Towards Tackling FGM In The UK Is Severely Compromised By Brexit

February 6, 2019

Today (6 February) is the annual Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, a day when people around the world declare once again their commitment to stopping this cruel traditional practice. The UK has been amongst those leading the way in FGM eradication, but sadly there is almost no aspect of British life on which Brexit – leaving the European Union – would not impinge.
This post, written for the Analysis pages of The UK in a Changing World website, examines some serious difficulties which may arise for UK-led work to end FGM, if Brexit goes forward.

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6 February: ‘Zero Tolerance Of FGM’ Day In Britain And World-Wide

February 6, 2019

On 6 February 2003 the First Lady of Nigeria, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, made the official declaration of Zero Tolerance for FGM during an event by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC). That date is now marked annually as we renew our determination to make FGM history;  and much has indeed been achieved – many of us know far more about FGM now than then – but in the UK as much as anywhere there remains a great deal to be done before we can start to hope our task is accomplished. These are some thoughts about progress in Britain which I wrote for the Morning Star today:

Read more…

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