Almost 500 cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) were identified by hospitals across the UK in just one month in late 2014.
According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), fifteen cases were documented daily in the month of November. However, 25% of the HSCIC Trusts did not submit documentation. This suggests that the number of actual cases is much higher.
FGM is not the same as male circumcision. FGM involved the deliberate total or partial removal of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. The procedure makes urination painful; sexual pleasure impossible; childbirth torturous. It is a barbaric, tribal, and primarily African practice which can also lead to infertility, incontinence, infection, fistulas, and death.
It has been estimated that 20,000 girls under the age of fifteen are at risk every year in the UK.
This practice was outlawed in 1985; clearly, that has not stopped people from breaking the law in Britain. Despite the high number of known cases, only one prosecution is currently underway, the first of its kind.
Contrast this with Egypt, where approximately 90% of women have been subjected to this atrocity. Egypt banned FGM six years ago.
In an historic decision, an Egyptian physician has just been convicted of manslaughter in the death of a 13-year-old girl, Suhair al-Bataa, who died after an illegal FGM procedure.
Initially, the doctor, Raslan Fadl— and the girl’s father, who forced her to do it– were “cleared of any wrongdoing;” however, prosecutors appealed and the verdict was overturned. The doctor was sentenced to two years and three months in prison. His clinic was ordered to close for one year. The girl’s father was given a three month suspended sentence.
Suad Abu-Dayyeh, a spokeswoman for Equality Now, called yesterday’s sentence a “monumental victory for women and girls in Egypt.”
African Muslims, Christians, and animists practice FGM; Muslim countries in Africa, such as Somalia, Sudan, and Egypt, also do so—despite arguments that the Koran does not mention it. With the expansion of Arab-style terrorism and Islamism, this practice seems to have spread to central and southeast Asia, specifically to Indonesia, India, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan.
FGM is also practiced in North America. American physicians often see this when a woman is in labor and her massive, post-FGM scarring, makes delivery very difficult. As of 1996, this procedure was illegal to perform on minors in the United States.
How can we stop this practice at least in the West? Easier said than done. Parents and grandparents send their daughters and granddaughters back home for the procedure; they also have tribal mutilation “specialists” or physicians do it in private clinics in the West. They ardently believe that female genitalia are “dirty” and must be cleansed; that a girl who can feel no sexual pleasure is less likely to bring shame to her family; that FGM is a rite of passage, a purification ritual; and that no one appropriate will marry a girl—or marry into a family—which does not genitally mutilate all its women.
Western laws have not, as yet, been able to penetrate such a belief system. That is why the Egyptian decision is so important.