Western news articles about female genital mutilation routinely assert that it is solely a cultural practice, not justified by any religion. Yet again and again we see Muslim clerics justifying it, and it is sanctioned in Islamic law.
“Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) (by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the bazr ‘clitoris’ [this is called khufaadh ‘female circumcision’]).” — ‘Umdat al-Salik e4.3, translated by Mark Durie, The Third Choice, p. 64
“Islamic law permits by definition, by prophetic statement and by practice female circumcision” — Australian Imam Afroz Ali
“Please help”¦ I don’t want to be cut like my sister when we go back to Africa,” by Martin Bentham for the London Evening Standard, March 5 (thanks to Michael):
Teachers were today told they must report female genital mutilation to police as a heart-rending letter from an 11-year-old London girl whose sister was sent abroad to be cut was published by campaigners.
The letter, sent to London charity Equality Now, tells how the girl’s 12-year-old sister was subjected to the procedure by aunts at her grandmother’s home in Gambia.
The girl “” who tells how her sister was warned that “spirits will come and kill her immediately” if she reported the crime “” says she is worried the same will happen to her.
The letter also tells how the girl reported her fears, and what had happened to her sister, to a teacher but instead of alerting police the teacher advised the girl to contact the charity.
Efua Dorkenoo, director of Equality Now’s campaign against FGM, today said the failure to alert police was a mistake and warned that teachers and other professionals were allowing girls to remain at risk because of a mistaken belief that mutilation was a cultural practice rather than a crime.
“Practising communities think that the UK doesn’t have the guts to prevent and prosecute for FGM,” she said. “The key reasons for the lack of prosecutions are the young age of those involved and the fact that FGM is a hidden practice within families and affected communities.
“So, as with other forms of child abuse, teachers need to be alert to, and report, all evidence of emotional or physical pain, missed classes from school, or any of the other common indicators of FGM. If they and other frontline professionals do this, we will get prosecutions and come closer to ending this horrific abuse.”
In the letter, the girl, whose identity is being kept secret to protect her, describes how she came to England from Gambia with her mother, sisters and brothers in 2005 when she was six to join her father who was studying here. It then recounts how the family was watching a 2010 programme about African culture “showing girls having their privates cut” when her older sister started crying.
Two days later “she told my dad that she also had her private cut”.
The younger girl is now understood to be safe after the charity contacted police. No prosecution was brought, however, because of the difficulty of obtaining sufficient evidence. One reason is understood to be that the perpetrators of the crime were overseas when police were alerted. Ms Dorkenoo, whose charity estimates that there at least 24,000 girls at risk of mutilation, many of them in London, said that the failure of the girl’s teacher to contact police directly reflected a wider reluctance among professionals, including social workers, midwives and others, to report mutilation or when evidence emerged that girls were at risk.
FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1985, but no prosecutions have been brought so far. The Met revealed recently that it had obtained “clear evidence” of a crime in one case now under investigation, raising hopes that the first charges could be brought soon.
8th November 2010
6 Buckingham Street
My name is ******* and I am 11 years old. I and my mum, sisters and brother came to England in 2005 when I had just turned 6 years old to join my dad who was at University. We come from Gambia in West Africa.
Three weeks ago we were watching a TV programme on African culture and as they were showing girls having their privates cut, my older sister who is 12 years old started crying. After 2 days she told my dad that she also had her private cut. Mum and Dad never knew about it and she was told if she ever tells anyone the sprits will come and kill her immediately. She said it was done one weekend by my aunties at my nans house. Last Friday mum took her to our GPto have her checked and the doctor said it was done to her.
This morning when I went to school I told one of my teachers about it and together we went on the computer and found your group. The teacher asked me to write to you and ask for your help. I don’t want my private cut by anyone.
My dad loves us very much and he did not like what they done to my sister and he is very confussed. We should be going back to Gambia any time after Eid and he is worried and upset that they would do the same to me. I don’t what that too.
If you reply to this letter I will showe my dad and I am shore that he would be very glad to have your help. He is my best friend and if he knows what to do he would do it, he would not want anything to hurt us — I know that.
Please madam help me, and my dad. If you reply soon he would definately contact you if you can help. I really hope you can help me, not to have my private cut. I am reallye confused expessically seeing my dad so un-happy and not knowing what to do.
Thank you very much for reading my letter.