FGM: Is the UK government doing enough?

The United Kingdom has failed to persecute a single perpetrator of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It is astonishing. Out of the 5,702 cases reported between April 2015 and March 2016, not one case of FGM was prosecuted. Further research infers that the 5,702 cases reported are just a fragment of the estimated 170,000 women in the UK who have undertaken the procedure, and not reported. Why is it that our government has failed to tackle this crisis- or even bring further attention to it?


FGM is an extremely sensitive subject, both locally and globally. It is not discussed enough in our homes, our communities or our governments. The stomach-turning procedure can vary across four different forms, the predominant being the “removal of the female external genitalia [but with] non-medical reasons”. The absence of any medical justification deepens the pain inflicted on these women, as it imposes not only physical but mental torture. Further, there are  severe medical consequences such as extreme pain or difficulty during intercourse and increased risks for pregnancies.

You may ask yourself, how any woman could allow herself to undergo such a procedure with no true benefit, except the emphasis of tightness– a ‘benefit’ which increases pleasure for men. But sadly, it is awfully common for FGM to take place without the girl’s consent or explanation- just the justification of a deep-rooted tradition.

Are cultural values a strong enough reasoning for the UK government to not act vigilantly against this deed of horror? Is culture more important than a young girl’s welfare?

The crossroad of local beliefs and global values

The key obstacles for the defeat of FGM in the UK, and globally, are the “deep rooted socio-cultural ideologies” and “long-held values” which maintain FGM to be an essential part of some cultures [1]. We in the UK typically celebrate the array of cultures and backgrounds around us. Globalization has led us to incorporate local and global values into our communities. However, it is due to this incorporation that at times persecuting issues such as FGM not only increases tensions, but cause criticisms such as being culturally insensitive. If the government were to input stricter laws and measures against FGM, those in favour of the act understand it as prohibiting a girl from becoming a woman and carrying out certain traditions within their cultures.

It leaves the government at a crossroad of local and global conventions.

The right to not be violated

In a matter such as this cultural values cannot take precedence over the health of women. Leyla Hussein, from the Daughters of Eve in a recent interview with Dawn Butler MP describes her own overwhelming anecdote. At the time Leyla argues, children do not realise the extent of FGM as it is a part of society and a part of life. The pain and the trauma that comes with the procedure remains silent and secret. Hussein uses her own battle as a young British Somalian, to strongly urge the UK government to take further action and unpluck this tradition from society.

We cannot neglect that FGM, due to the privacy of the matter, is difficult to regulate completely. Nonetheless the government cannot justify their inadequate attempts by blaming the cultural insensitivity or privacy. Due to globalization, whatever their previous practices may be, nothing in indigenous Africa, Asia or Western culture should prevent them from promoting human rights today [1]. It is our government’s duty to prevent this violation of human rights and support women taking the stand against it.

What more can be done?

Our government can take inspiration from international agencies such as the United Nations (UN), who view FGM as “a violation of human rights” for women. If the UN are able to actively work to bring about international change regarding FGM, our government can do so too. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, one of the most widely approved and fastest ratified treaties in the history of the UN. It forces the abiding governments to be committed in the fight against FGM [1]; because the welfare of a woman is more significant than this cultural practice [1].

We must push the government to realise this crisis is a growing epidemic. They must provide reliable figures and offer more mental and physical support for victims, to deter further possible targets from the act. This can only be executed through stricter sanctions for those cases reported in order to deter others. Through policies and efforts which are long-term, rather than short-lived benefits. Hussein soundly puts, psychological support allows both women and men to coherently understand the dangers of FGM. If more support clinics are created within communities, as opposed to shutting them down, it begins the domino effect of social change which is crucial in deteriorating this innate tradition.


Imoh, Afua Twum-Danso. “Rites Vs Rights: Female Genital Cutting at the Crossroads of Local Values and Global Norms.” International Social Work 56, no. 1 (2013): 37-50 [1]

BBC. “FGM: Lack of Convictions ‘a national scandal.’” BBC UK (BBC News), September 15, 2016. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37364079.

———. “The First Ever FGM Figures Show Nearly 6, 000 New Cases in England.” 2017. Accessed February 27, 2017. http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/36838870/the-first-ever-fgm-figures-show-nearly-6000-new-cases-in-england.

International, Public Radio. “Why Do These Women in Kenya Support Female Genital Mutilation?” February 28, 2017. Accessed February 28, 2017. https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-07-02/why-do-these-women-kenya-support-female-genital-mutilation.

———. “Why Do These Women in Kenya Support Female Genital Mutilation?” February 28, 2017. Accessed February 28, 2017. https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-07-02/why-do-these-women-kenya-support-female-genital-mutilation.

“Save the Acton FGM Community Clinic.” 2017. Accessed February 27, 2017. https://www.change.org/p/save-the-acton-fgm-community-clinic?recruiter=404349672&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_term=mob-xs-action_alert_sign-no_msg.

Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation. n.p., 2008. http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/csw52/statements_missions/Interagency_Statement_on_Eliminating_FGM.pdf.

Accessed February 27, 2017. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/female-genital-mutilation/Pages/Introduction.aspx.

Accessed February 28, 2017. http://about-fgm.co.uk/about-fgm/history-and-cultural-context/motives-for-the-practice-male-satisfaction/.

Accessed February 28, 2017. http://www.dawnbutler.org.uk/fgm.




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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