Growing up you believe the world is meant to be the way it is. The older I get the more I realise that this is not the case. The world is full of injustices and atrocities that governments and the voice of faith expect us to accept, though with each passing year they grow fewer and fewer, at least one would hope. I have created this blog as a space for me to rant about all things science, politics, philosophy and religion, before it’s too late and the vessel of new atheism propelled by a growing surge in secularism solves all of the world’s problems for good.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Female genital butchery

People may believe that female genital mutilation (FGM) is a foreign practice that only occurs in a few Middle East and African countries, but they’d be wrong. This tradition is very much alive in western countries where immigrants have brought their torturous cultural practices with them and continue to impose them onto their children.

In the UK alone, it’s expected that 500+ girls each summer undergo the brutal tradition of FGM. The summer holidays are chosen because FGM requires about 6 weeks to recover from. The below short documentary has chilling stories of how these girls are lied to, being convinced they’re going on a holiday overseas to see family and friends. Shortly after arriving at their holiday destination they are set upon, ambushed, by their so called family and friends, held down and have their clitoris and labia removed with a razor blade (a new one costs extra), and are then sewn shut. They’re made to lie in bed for weeks with their legs bound together so that they are unable to stand or walk, which would tear their stitches.

It was found recently in the UK that “cutters” (those who carry out the human butchery) are being flown into the country and paid to circumcise girls, as this is cheaper than each family having to go on “holiday”. It has also been reported that these cutters are often used at FGM parties where up to 20 or more girls undergo FGM en masse.

For most girls, this practice occurs at a much older age in comparison with male circumcision. Girls can be anywhere between 5-12 years old or more when they undergo this practice. And unlike male circumcision they can remember the entire event and live with it for the entire lives, imagine the emotional and psychological ramifications for these poor girls. Girls can suffer from medical issues straight after the event or later in life such as ruptured bladder or urethras, cysts and infections due to them retaining their menstruation (one girl in the above video talks of this), they can become infertile and those who don't have huge issues when it comes to sexual intercourse and child birth, and a number of girls die each year as a result of FGM.

The same issues are rampant in Australia with some doctors even suggesting legalising a less extreme form of FGM in order to prevent families taking their children overseas to their home countries to have it done on a kitchen bench instead. I really disagree with legalising any form of FGM though as it is not ok full stop. No person has the right, whether their own children or not, to have their bodies mutilated, and we shouldn’t be facilitating such a practice in any way shape or form.

An Australian doctor Greg Jenkins works for Sydney’s Auburn hospital, which opened a clinic devoted to women in 1995 who’ve suffered FGM, as women were showing up more and more with medical issues related to FGM. As of the early 2000s they were seeing around 40 women a year, the number has no doubt climbed since. An interview with him reported...

FGM is sometimes performed by trained surgeons in a clinical environment but in most cases it is performed by village midwives, often using razors or broken glass.
Cat gut or thorns are used to suture the wound and the girls' legs are usually bound together afterwards for healing

"(It's) not done under any sterile conditions at all," Dr Jenkins says.

"Sometimes it's done in quite early childhood but often it's done when the girls are a little bit older - six, seven, eight - and they do often have quite full recollection of the procedure.
"It has quite a significant mortality. In some cases friends of the women that we're looking after haven't survived the procedure either from haemorrhage or infection.”
I’m an outspoken atheist and critic of religion and barbaric cultural practices, such as FGM, which often sees me receiving a great deal of flack from people with whom I converse about these things. To me, I am not being bigoted, I am not being racist or “culture-ist”, when I speak against these sorts of practices, having particular issue with their religious and/or cultural derivation. It IS child abuse (breaching a number of human rights) no matter what lens you look at it through, and I cannot stand those ultra politically correct people who try to avoid this fact, claiming that “it’s a practice that has long been a part of their respective culture, therefore they have the right to continue it”. I’m sorry, but that is nonsense. Cultures do not deserve respect simply because they have been practiced for a long time. By the same token you could argue that child abuse in the catholic church has occurred for many 100s of years and thus deserves to be “left alone”.

Immigrants definitely have the right to practice their religion and cultures freely in Australia, and in any other western country they migrate to. However, freedom to do so should dissolve as soon as the freedoms of others, their very own children in this case, are impinged on. If they are breaking the law, like any other citizen of the respective country they are in they should have to answer for it, whether or not they claim that the action was part of their culture. Ancient derived cultural practices don’t get precedence over the law simply because they’ve been done for a long time elsewhere.

Map of countries where FGM is practiced
Map of countries where Islam is practiced
I might also bring up the fact that FGM and Islam have are intrinsically linked. Though it is true, there are a number of countries where Islam is practiced and FGM is not. However as both the images above show there is a blatant overlap of effectively all countries where FGM is rampant. Islam is the predominant religion in all of these countries, and though FGM may not have specifically been derived from the islamic religions, it is no doubt continued with great enthusiasm by muslims who believe female sexuality is something to be ashamed or and oppressed.

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  1. Please don't abbreviate this horror to FGM. It is Female Genital MUTILATION! BUTCHERY! It is a barbaric practice that must be outlawed everywhere. Suggesting legalising a less extreme form is just obscene and can't be countenanced.

  2. I couldn't agree with you more Alan.