By now you must have heard about the campaign by a 17 year old girl Fahma Mohamed with the Guardian to end FGM. The petition, which has received nearly 200,000 signatures, has succeeded in getting Fahma a meeting with the Education Secretary to raise a very simple yet effective solution to this horrendous problem in Britain.
FGM has already been banned since 1985 without even one prosecution (though this is all about to change) meaning that around 20,000 British girls are at risk of being mutilated every year without anyone being held to account. It’s particularly dangerous during holidays when families take their girls back to be cut or have them mutilated right here – a period known as “cutting season”. Fahma is suggesting that schools teach about FGM before the holidays. Simple and effective.
This campaign will help bring an end to FGM in Britain because it heralds a real change in attitudes. Not of the public at large per se because it has been a while now that FGM has been considered child abuse by large numbers of people (thanks to the tireless efforts of many campaigners over many many long years). But it’s a palpable change in the attitude of “Guardian-types” – the ones who defend culture and religion despite all human cost.
The fact that the Guardian is leading this campaign says it all. It’s the beginning of the end for FGM in Britain.
It’s certainly cause for celebration.
A little more than 6 months ago, the NSPCC’s helpline for FGM victims was deemed “racist curtain-twitching”. A little more than a year ago, when asked about the lack of prosecutions in Britain, Commander Simon Foy, the child abuse specialist at Scotland Yard, said “I am not necessarily sure that the availability of a stronger sense of prosecution will change it for the better” and that “Inspection almost at times is considered to be a form of abuse in itself. We should not encourage behaviour if that behaviour is in itself child abuse”… This culturally relativist attitude – that the Guardian excels in - has stopped Britain from addressing FGM for so long because it has deemed it racist to demand an end to inhuman cultural or religious traditions and practices. It’s this “tolerant” attitude (that is in reality tolerance of the intolerable for the “other”) that has resulted in a teacher saying “that’s nice” when her student tells her she was cut during the holidays and caused the likes of “feminist voice” Germaine Greer to say banning FGM is “an attack on cultural identity” and that ”One man’s beautification is another man’s mutilation”…
Yes, the tide has definitely turned from the days when I was scolded by “women’s rights campaigners” in the 1980s for calling it mutilation; “call it circumcision and respect culture and religion!”, they said.
What is important to remember, and which will soon be forgotten, is that it doesn’t take much courage to oppose inhumanity when the tide has turned; it takes courage to oppose it when everyone else is defending it. This is what someone like teacher Lisa Zimmermann did; I do wonder if Fahma would be standing where she is if it were not for her. Instead of saying “that’s nice”, Lisa Zimmermann was horrified when she found out some of her students had been cut; she co-founded the “Female Defence League”, which started off with 4 girls writing anonymous poetry. They were accused of making pornography when the girls made a film against FGM. Now the group has over 100 members and the rest so to say is history.
There are obvious lessons here well known to any campaigner who wants to see positive change. Swimming against the mainstream is difficult and may at times seem impossible, but it does eventaully have an impact. The tide will eventually turn as it will on segregation of the sexes, on Sharia courts in Britain and on the burqa. Just wait and see.