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Thousands of British girls are the victims of wounding with intent

Nick Cohen notes that it’s progress when violence against women and girls is treated as such.

Odd though it may seem to older readers, the Crown Prosecution Service now regards itself as a liberal organ of the state. This week it is making a great play of its success in deterring violence against women. Its lawyers brought 91,000 domestic violence prosecutions last year and secured 67,000 convictions. As I have mentioned in this space before, many criminologists believe that the willingness, not just of prosecutors and the police but of wider society, to take violence against women and children seriously explains the welcome fall in homicide rate.

Well it would, wouldn’t it. If fewer women are killed then the homicide rate will fall, unless killers decide to kill more men to make up the numbers, which seems unlikely. Plus taking violence against women and children seriously has the added advantage of taking violence against women and children seriously. It’s quite a good idea to take violence against all kinds of people seriously, just in case no kinds of people actually deserve to be the object of violence.

But anyway, despite this one bright spot, all is not well.

But officialdom’s concern for abused women is strictly colour coded.  The CPS will defend women’s rights, but only the rights of white women. Girls with black or brown skins can go hang — or, rather go have their genitalia cut to pieces.

FGM, in other words. It’s not being seen as another form of violence against girls.

Britain made female genital mutilation a criminal offence in the 1980s. Later we said it was illegal for parents to take their children abroad for the ‘procedure’. Yet although thousands of British girls are the victims of wounding with intent, the CPS has not instigated one prosecution, let alone secured a conviction.

To his credit, I suppose, Scotland Yard’s specialist in child abuse cases Commander Simon Foy found the courage to speak in public. Unfortunately, his words were a disgrace. ‘I am not necessarily sure that the availability of a stronger sense of prosecution will change’ the incidence of FGM ‘for the better,’ he said.  Is there any other law that Commander Foy and his superiors think it pointless to enforce? Do senior officers say that prosecuting burglars or rapists or murderers makes no difference? Or is it only in the case of the mutilation of girls from other cultures that the cops abandon their belief in the deterrent power of punishment?

Imitating the French by having medical staff check girls, would infringe the girls’ rights, Foy continued, as he used the language of human rights to justify his failure to uphold the rights of women and girls. In this instance, and in this instance only, the police not only believe that putting alleged criminals on trial is pointless, they add that investigating an alleged crime is a criminal act.

So much for taking violence against women and girls seriously.

Comments

  1. callistacat says

    A lot of countries are starting to recognize that the Church of Scientology is an abusive cult. They’ve been convicted of fraud in France. Why not older abusive cults that openly mutilate children and treat half their members like slaves?

  2. says

    I do wish Cohen wasn’t quite so vehement and hypermoralistic. It can be obscure the issue. Are we really to believe that the CPS will “defend women’s rights, but only the rights of white women“? I’m no big fan of the Crown Prosecution Service but that seems to be an insult to all of its employees who’ve worked on cases involving forced marriage, honour violence or domestic abuse perpetrated against black and Asian women. Is it at possible that they’re at least in part motivated by an aversion not to imposing western standards or whatever but to forcing families to endure their inspections of girls’ genitals? I mean, it’s an intrusion that’s not to be taken lightly. If I had kids I wouldn’t want anyone getting that close to them without a damn good reason.

    Of course, FGM is an abuse that’s hideous enough that it is a damn good reason for extreme measures. If such inspections are the best means of preventing them they’re necessary. And the fact that we’ve seen no prosecutions despite having more victims within our shores than the French, who’ve convicted dozens, is a scandal. Good for Cohen for drawing attention to it. But, at the risk of being accused of being a tone troll, I think the Hitchensian denunciatory rhetoric can sometimes diminish rather enhance the moral power of one’s writings.

  3. says

    Is it at possible that they’re at least in part motivated by an aversion not to imposing western standards or whatever but to forcing families to endure their inspections of girls’ genitals? I mean, it’s an intrusion that’s not to be taken lightly. If I had kids I wouldn’t want anyone getting that close to them without a damn good reason.

    I live in a German state where there are mandatory health check-ups for my kids else I get a visit from CPS.
    They also inspect their genitals because, you know, apart from stuff like abuse, it’s good to take care of those parts.
    It’s no fucking deal, you know?
    That’s just a lame excuse

  4. says

    Giliel

    Fair enough. You’re right that that was oversensitive. (And, as a matter of fact, I think I remember having a pretty thorough medical examination in infants school.)

    I’d recommend watching the programme, by the way. The girls interviewed were very dignified and articulate.

  5. says

    In fact, the more I think about the more Cohen’s words seem justified so I’d like to retract those criticisms and offer distant apologies.

  6. Godless Heathen says

    Really? I’m pretty sure no doctor looked at my genitals until my first gynecologist visit. Maybe when I was a baby, but I don’t remember.

    Although, my pediatrician never took my blood during physicals, either, so maybe he was just weird and other US physicians are different?

  7. says

    Really? I’m pretty sure no doctor looked at my genitals until my first gynecologist visit. Maybe when I was a baby, but I don’t remember.

    Hmm, I’m wondering about how much just is about memory. Because if you don’t think of it as something “extraordinary” but normal, it hardly sticks in your mind.
    The usual part of the check-ups (there are age-specific ones that don’t matter here) is that they undress, are weighed, meassured, sit on the examination table for the doc to listen to their lungs and hearts, then they lie down, the doc will feel their bellies for their inner organs, then she’ll ask them to spread the legs so she can have a look there, everything fine, some questions for mum if they pee and poop right, off you go, get dressed, here’s your cookie.
    Why should they remember that?

  8. Kathy says

    I am absolutely sure that no doctor ever asked me to spread my legs so they could look at my genitals as a child. I know I would have remembered that – I’d have been horrified. None of the GPs I saw growing up would even ask me to remove my top to listen to my chest – I’d simply lift the bottom a bit so he could get the stethoscope under it.

    It’s pretty rare for a doctor to examine a child’s private parts, in my experience. There has to be a compelling reason.
    Now, suspected FGM is a compelling reason, but I can’t see many doctors making it a routine check if they don’t have other reasons to suspect it has taken place.

  9. says

    It’s pretty rare for a doctor to examine a child’s private parts, in my experience. There has to be a compelling reason.

    There’s a pretty compelling reason called preventive care. Why on earth should we jeopardize our children’s sexual and reproductive health by declaring their genitals to be off-limits for a pediatrician to look at?
    Apart from sending our children the message that their genitals are shameful things that need to be hidden away.
    It also circumnavigates nicely the stigmatisation of all Muslim parents who will feel singled out and under general suspicion of mutilating their children.
    Furthermore it helps to protect all children, since the regular check ups have already uncovered a number of sexual abuse cases where pediatricians found things like genital warts and symptoms of STDs in chidren.

  10. Godless Heathen says

    @Giliell-not sure, but when I was older, I think I kept my underwear on. Maybe not though. You’re right, if I thought it was normal, I wouldn’t remember it. :-)

  11. anat says

    Kathy, the pediatrician who saw my daughter from the age of 2 always inspected her genitals as part of routine check-ups. Always in my presence, always explained to my daughter what she was doing, always got full cooperation. Ear exams were the worst part of the physical for my daughter.

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