Have we lost the war against Female Genital Mutilation?
From Brother Ivo:
The Female Genital Mutilation Act was passed in 2003 with little scrutiny, and no opposition. Since then, no prosecutions have taken place, and it has been reported that each year some 7000 women continue to present themselves at a sample of London maternity clinics having suffered this procedure - some 5 per cent of births. In the UK, we have 17 clinics devoted to reconstructions and remedying the health consequences of badly-performed operations. The prohibition does not appear to be having much practical effect. Ordinarily, this would provoke calls for a review.
Unfortunately it seems to be a subject which continues to be swept under the carpet. We have dealt with it once; we have moved on.
France passed similar legislation at the same time, but at least they followed it up and subsequently brought over 100 prosecutions. Additionally, the French, being less squeamish about offending minority cultural sensitivities, routinely monitor children at risk within communities where the practice is likely to be found. If one thinks about it, it is not a crime easily concealed from the medical community, and we expect them to report crime in a variety of circumstances. So how is it that the police appear more active in relation to the Twittersphere than in relation to a widespread crime in relation to this Act?
Brother Ivo needs to be clear: he finds the whole idea of such mutilation utterly repellant and none of the issues he explores in this post is intended to apply to children. Not only does a 'procedure' with no health benefits plainly constitute 'significant harm' within the terms of the 1987 Status of Children Act, but disfigurement of those who do not and cannot lawfully consent is never acceptable under any circumstances, ever.
When he thinks for a moment what some of these little girls suffer, he is overwhelmed with anger and could probably be persuaded to attach the millstone around the necks of perpetrators prior to their being cast into the depths. Sadly, the police and Crown Prosecution Service appear less passionate about the subject.
He has no more liking for adults undergoing the procedure, for when God created Eve he saw that she too was good. It is the sin of human pride to think oneself capable and entitled to improve on the Lord's design. But, for these purposes, Brother Ivo is prepared to move on and consider the matter more broadly with a view to exploring the inconsistencies of human autonomy.
It seems that we were prepared to write the headline by passing the Act, but are unwilling to press on and engage in the practicalities that might vigorously put an end to this barbaric practice.
In any other sphere, we might expect to find our progressive friends, including feminists, pointing out that the legislation isn't working, and that the better focus for action would be to 'respect diversity' and to promote 'harm reduction'. The latter is currently the argument deployed in relation to the war on drugs, and before that, the same approach was used to change the prohibition on abortion, when it was asserted that it was better to engage with an evil than to attempt to suppress it.
It is in that latter sphere that the parallel is closest, for do we not constantly hear about 'the woman's right to choose'?
Whenever anyone seeks an adjustment of abortion time limits, are we not confronted with the shrillest cries that women must have absolute control of their own bodies without legislative Interference? If the entire baby has no 'legal personality' to be protected, it seems hard to see why the clitoris should be individually favoured. It is indeed occurring to Brother Ivo that the only purpose currently served by the Act is to act as a totem: a 'crime against feminism'.
Usually when such an Act falls into question, or even disrepute, our progressive friends move towards a preference for replacing prohibition with regulation, and in this instance a strategy such as a more hygienic management of the health risks. We heard it in relationship to the backstreet abortion, and currently hear the same argument deployed for needle exchanges for drugs users or licensed brothels. Why not here?
If one thinks about it, it is odd for a culture to regard itself as superior in condemning the body dysmorphia of adult women from sub Saharan Africa whilst promoting the 'boob job' the 'vajazzle' and even the 'designer vagina'.
It actually gets curiouser and curiouser.
When we turn to the 'Transgendered community', we have no such squeamishness. Our NHS pays for similar surgery - even, occasionally, for serving prisoners - and the philosophical underpinning appears to be that such re-configuring is not only to be 'celebrated' as a form of 'liberation', despite the considerable mutilation involved, but the passing of adverse comment risks the commentator being accused or even prosecuted for 'hate speech'.
So wherein lies the difference?
If an adult woman wanted such surgery in the UK, what precisely is the basis for not respecting her wishes, given the raft similar operations currently being undertaken without demur?
One suspects that the answers, if given, would centre upon patriarchal power forcing women into such a demeaning decision, as if no man ever deployed emotional, physical, economic or cultural reasons to impose his preference for the termination of a pregnancy.
Here we come to the crux of the question. Can anyone satisfy Brother Ivo's intellectual curiosity and give him a single reason against Female Genital Mutilation that does not carry at least equal force in the case of abortion - noting, of course, that in the latter case it is possible to argue (as he does) that additionally another's life is ended. If we can override the woman's views in one case, why not the other?
Our progressive and feminist friends care passionately for this Act. We ought perhaps to press them to 'use it - or lose it', and along the way scrutinise their defence with greater care than was deployed when the matter first came before Parliament.
(Posted by Brother Ivo)