British law against female genital mutilation is pointless

Members of Parliament admit that political correctness is the primary stumbling block in ending this horror. In the UK, 66,000 women have reportedly been mutilated, with an estimated 24,000 more at risk. The authorities do nothing. Its only mutilation after all.

LONDON. Just when you think multiculturalism cant get any more alarming, or political correctness any more insidious, you read about a young British woman herself having suffered from the repulsive practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) who took to the streets of Northampton to ask people to sign a petition in favour of FGM, and only one person refused. In the half hour she undertook the task, she managed to secure 19 signatures.

FGM is about the vilest most misogynistic act it is possible for the imagination to devise. You could put a group of the most virulent woman-haters together in a room and ask them to come up with the harshest form of punishment of females, for being female, and I doubt they would manage to come with this.

 

For those who dont know, FGM involves the cutting away of a girls clitoris. The clitoris is a bundle of nerves which (primarily though not exclusively) produces sexual pleasure in women. In some forms of FGM, having removed the clitoris, the cutter then goes on to sew up the vagina. This ensures that a woman will be a virgin at marriage (because a womans virginity measures her worth). When married, her vagina will be reopened using a knife or a blade; by this point it will of course have sealed shut.

It is done because a womans sexuality must be controlled; a woman must be controlled. This attack on a womans genitals is an attack on the essence of what makes her female. An attack on the female itself. It is intended not just to control a girl, but to make her despise herself; to despise her sexuality and her natural instincts and of course her capacity for pleasure. This is a brutally misogynistic act.

 

According to the World Health Organisation, the consequences for mutilated women are severe and include severe pain, shock, haemorrhage (bleeding), tetanus or sepsis (bacterial infection), urine retention, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue. Later in life, incontinence, cysts, bladder infections, and a lot more can follow.

FGM has been illegal in Britain since it was criminalised by the Thatcher government in 1985. The legislations remit has since been extended to cover all cases involving British residents whether the mutilation is carried out here or abroad but this has proved pointless because not a single prosecution has ever been made. Why? Multiculturalism and political correctness.

 

In a report from MPs earlier this year, even they admitted that political correctness was the primary stumbling block in ending this horror. The committee behind the report said, The UKs international leadership is weakened by its failure to address violence against women and girls within its own borders, particularly female genital mutilation from which 20,000 girls within the UK are at risk. Robust action should be taken to counter political correctness and address culturally sensitive practices such as female genital mutilation within the UK.

This is welcome but, to my mind, the very fact that they label it culturally sensitive is part of the problem. How about just enforcing the law? Why worry about sensitivity at all when womens health and dignity are at risk?

 

The United Nations plan of action to rid the world of FGM includes a requirement that we be non-judgmental and non-coercive. But of course, why judge mutilation? Its all relative anyway isnt it? This approach is as absurd as it is dangerous, it ignores the harsh realities, and again requires cultural sensitivity; the very thing that has allowed FGM to continue and prosper. The UNs plan also tells national governments to implement legislation to bring FGM under control. But what is the point of legislation if underlying it is a demand to be sensitive? Law enforcement isnt sensitive nor should it be required to be.

 

Leyla Hussein, the London woman who took the petition to Northampton, conducted the experiment to see for herself how crazy political correctness had become. In the end, she was reduced to tears. Hussein approached shoppers telling them she wished to protect her culture, tradition, and rights. She told the London Evening Standard,

I kept using the word its just mutilation. They were like yes, you are right.

She added:

FGM is not culture, it is violence. Stop using the culture word. This is happening to children. We are human beings, we cant watch children being cut, I dont care what culture you belong to.

In the UK, 66,000 women have reportedly been mutilated, with an estimated 24,000 more at risk. Despite legal obligations on local authorities to step in when a child is deemed at risk of harm, this has never happened with regard to FGM. I spoke to the police about this who told me (among other things) that we cannot attack anyones culture or faith.

 

Multiculturalism goes right to the top of Government. When I wrote to the Justice Ministry on behalf of One Law for All asking why it is allowing sharia tribunals, dealing with matters of family and criminal law, to thrive in Britain even though they discriminate against women as a matter of course, I was told we do not prevent people living in accordance with religious beliefs or cultural practices. They have yet to respond to my follow up question as to what limits are placed on this, or even if there are any limits at all.

What has caused us to be so blasé, so tolerant of this brutality? There are many reasons that can be debated but chief among them must be fear. People have been told over and over and over again that all cultures are of equal value, and therefore all cultural practices must be respected. If you dont offer the required respect, you will be a racist. Yes, a racist. When the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) finally set up a helpline for young girls at risk of FGM in Britain, as sure as night follows day, they were accused of whipping up racism.

 

Saleha Ali, a writer and researcher, not only downplayed the issue and described the NSPCCs campaign as hype, she concluded It seems that the objectionable and irrational actions of a small minority of individuals has served as a pretext for official fantasies about the savagery and barbarism of dark-skinned communities in Britain.

Ali might be a lonely voice on this, but the sentiments she expressed are not, and they are widely held. When you consider the penalties for racism in Britain which can mean job loss, destroyed reputation, or even prison it is best to err on the side of caution and go with the prevailing view; that all cultures are equal and therefore all cultural practices equally worthy of respect.

 

This forgets of course that cultures change and always have, and what makes them change are the human beings living within them; human beings like Leyla Hussein.  Hussein is campaigning to change this culture, but she is not getting the support that she should. Instead, she is being betrayed by a twisted political correctness that puts cultural practices above human beings and slanders and silences those who object.

So who exactly is the racist here? Is it the person trying to end brutal and violent mutilation or those who think it should carry on because the people it happens to are different? I think we all know the answer, and I wouldnt mind betting that Leyla Hussein knows it too.

Anne Marie Waters is spokesperson for the One Law for All Campaign and council member of the British National Secular Society.  She is a law graduate and writer and speaker on democracy and human rights.  She campaigns for gender equality and to end cultural and religious relativism.