Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Female Genital Mutilation is a human rights issue

Congratulations to the Sunday Times for headlining this issue on the front page of last Sunday’s edition. This is a hidden abuse of young women that is coming under the spotlight as British doctors and midwives are beginning to speak out about the increase in cases they are seeing as a result of our increasing cultural diversity.

I remember first becoming aware of the practice of female circumcision many years ago after reading an Alice Walker book (Possessing the Secret of Joy), and I remember being horrified that such a barbaric practice was being forced on young girls, usually without anesthetic and  in unhygienic conditions. However I thought that it was an old ritual that was dying out as the Human Rights movement raised awareness of extreme female oppression around the world. 

To learn that not only is the practice ongoing, but being done to women living in the same country as me, women I may talk to or pass on the street, women I may stand next to in the supermarket checkout queue, is almost incomprehensible and fills me with sadness that the world is still so unenlightened.

The details of female circumcision are still ingrained in my head. In its simplest execution it involves cutting off the external flesh around the vagina. This is probably equivalent to removal of the male foreskin in terms of pain and impact on sexual enjoyment. However following this procedure in some cases the girls’ legs are bound together for over a month so that as part of the healing process the vagina becomes sealed over with scar tissue. Another level is removal of the clitoris. This I can guess would be the most immediately painful of the processes; and remember these girls are lucky if they get some form of anesthetic and the practitioner uses a clean and sharp pair of scissors. For a man it is probably the equivalent of having the end of the penis cut off. Obviously this condemns the women to significantly reduced likelihood of ever experiencing sexual pleasure.

The most extreme practice is where the outer lips are removed and the vagina is pretty much stitched together leaving a tiny hole for menstrual blood to flow through. The clitoris may or may not have been removed as well. This pretty much condemns the woman to a lifetime of painful consequences.  

The justification for the ritual of female circumcision is quoted as ‘hygiene’. Hmmn, the medical evidence against this is too obvious to go into. What it is really about is ensuring chastity and virginity on marriage. Where the vagina is either healed over or has been stitched, on consummation of the marriage the man has to literally rip the woman apart. It will be pretty obvious if someone has been there before him. But imagine the experience of the woman of her first sexual encounter. Nothing but pain. And how long will she be given to heal from that brutal experience before her husband wants to exert his sexual rights over her again. And again. With pain being the foremost experience of sex, how can the women ever be expected to achieve sexual pleasure? It is more likely to have serious long term psychological damage. And after this experience what incentive is there for a women to seek an adulterous relationship. But it doesn’t end there – what about childbirth? Any of the elements of female genital mutilation will leave scar tissue and issues that can complicate childbirth. Where the vagina has been stitched it can cause much more severe issues for mother and baby.

And amazingly, following childbirth some victims of female genital mutilation agree to be ‘restitched’. This reflects the other underlying reason for the practice – it is to make the woman’s vaginal entrance tighter to supposedly enhance her husband’s sexual pleasure. Or there is the cultural reason: to ensure her ‘purity’.

Genital mutilation is the perfect example of female oppression: in order to enable a man to ensure his social standing by having proof that his wife is a virgin, and to enhance his own sexual pleasure; a young girl, at an age where she has no power to exercise choice, has to undergo an incredibly painful ritual which condemns her to a life of further painful experiences and robs her of the opportunity to experience sexual pleasure herself. To enshrine this oppression within the culture any woman who has not undergone the process is treated as ‘unclean’ and ostracized.

How can anything justify this practice in any country? At it’s simplest it is child abuse, in context it is a major oppression of female human rights.

Waris Dirie Campaign


April 29, 2012 - Posted by | Opinion | , , ,


  1. im touched beyond measure, to think little children are the ones that go thru so much torture all in the name of culture!!! its so sad

    Comment by AmandaWhitneyM (@SupernovaMandy) | June 5, 2012 | Reply

  2. I have a good friend that is from India,and she was explaining this un-Godly act that i had to research the topic.As a former practitioner,Marine, i’d love to get a “Super-Squad” together and do nothing but,”Air Assault Rescue…As a man,i just wouldn’t imagine the level of insecurity in this type of culture’s men. What would be the point in not having the woman you love, want to be w/ you?, i mean,really!, want to be with you? and the world wonders why some cultures are so angry? If they can keep the one that they love in such bondage and pain,or possibly the future mother of there children as”hostage”, the capability of un-repentive hate towards the culture’s who actually love there significant other’s,and it’s been my personal experience to concede. Many of discussion to a better point of argument…

    Comment by "Agilamonster" | December 4, 2012 | Reply

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