FGM: The Culture of Cutting

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“A BBC investigation has revealed concerns that young girls are being brought to Scotland to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) because the country is seen as a soft touch[1]”. Perhaps headlines such as these are part of the reason why there will finally be a parliamentary inquiry into Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)…about time! Just this week, the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has launched an investigation into why no charges have been brought against these “cutters”.  Despite being illegal in the UK, FGM is still prevalent in our society, parents may take their girls abroad for the procedure or they may ‘fly’ cutters into the country to perform FGM. Flying cutters in or going abroad isn’t even necessary when parents can send their daughters to the local ‘aunty’ who executes the procedure in their very own town. FGM is a violation of the human rights of females. It is still very much a British problem and we have to face the fact that FGM is happening in this country and many others. Although it is a shocking, inhumane act, we cannot be in disbelief about it. FGM does not benefit women and girls in any way, it only harms them. There is NO justification for FGM; it is purely used to control women and we must pay more attention to it.

“Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons[2]”. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been illegal in the UK since 1985, it is also illegal to take girls overseas to have FGM performed, regardless of the law in that country. The three major types of FGM are clitoridectomy, excision and infibulation; they all carry major health risks. “About 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM[3]”. The procedure carries immediate complications and long term health consequences such as hemorrhages, infections, keloids, complications during childbirth and in extreme cases…death. To think that these are only a few of the many side effects, not to mention the psychological trauma. The traditional ‘circumcisers’ do not even give anesthesia to the girls and they rarely use clean sterilized tools. How would a supporter of FGM justify the act with all these health complications?

FGM is harmful towards women in many ways and there is no reasoning or justification for the act. It isn’t a religious ritual or belief; it is purely a cultural tradition. FGM is performed to control a women’s sexuality and to dampen promiscuity. Sex is no longer enjoyable and the procedure is meant to discourage infidelity and sex before marriage. FGM reduces a woman’s libido, thus demoting sex to a marital and reproductive obligation. This ensures that the woman’s role is solely domestic, she must take care of the family and the house, she will not be thinking about her own ‘sexual desires’. The defense for FGM – based on restraining a girl’s sexual appetite – rests on the overall objective of controlling and subordinating females. This cultural based custom “reflects deep-rooted inequalities between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women[4]”. Girls who are forced to have FGM are told that it will make them more eligible for ‘marriage’. They are told that they will be seen as ‘dirty’ if they don’t have FGM and if they do, they’re more acceptable in the community. You may assume that it is mainly the men who encourage this discriminatory procedure… but no, mothers are usually pressured by their mother in-laws and aunties to ensure their daughters have FGM; it is the mothers and aunties who ‘pin’ the girls down for the mutilation to happen.

FGM is wrong full stop; there is no justification for the barbaric act. It is a dangerous procedure that is solely used to control women. We must acknowledge that it is happening, even in countries in which it is illegal. Although prosecutions are difficult because of the lack of evidence, it still surprises me that there hasn’t been one single prosecution, considering that “24,000 girls under the age of 15 in the UK are thought to be at risk of FGM[5]”. This discriminatory act shouldn’t have a place in ANY society and more efforts need to be made to counteract FGM at international and local levels.


[1] “Female genital mutilation rising in soft-touch Scotland,” BBC News,

Accessed November 20, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-24915967

[2] “Female Genital Mutilation,” World Health Organization,

Accessed November 20, 2013, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid

[5] “Female Genital Mutilation,” The Guardian,

Accessed November 23, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/jan/22/female-genital-mutilation-help-girls

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About School of Politics and International Relations

This blog has been set up for the students of PO665, Advanced Topics in Politics and International Relations: Global Gender Justice, which is a course for final year Honours students in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent. As part of their participation in the course, students submit blog posts that examine issues pertaining to gender justice within the family, the community, the state and global society. We aim to explore the extent to which gender inequality within the state has an impact on state behaviour, with a specific focus on state development and state security, and further aim to analyse the effectiveness and limits of international organisations, international human rights instruments, NGOs and activists to bring about greater gender justice.
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