Female genital mutilation: This barbaric ritual cannot be given credence as ‘cultural’


Source: observer.guardian.co.uk/

It is shameful that this country has never prosecuted anyone for inflicting this dangerous and painful procedure on small girls.

I am glad you covered the issue of female genital mutilation last week. It is shameful that this country has never prosecuted anyone responsible for inflicting this dangerous and excruciatingly painful procedure on small girls. Your articles have spurred me on: I have written to the home secretary and to the Lib Dem Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone. I am also going to write to every MP with a sizeable community from the Horn of Africa in their constituency. I urge other readers to do something along those lines.

The softly-softly approach hasn’t worked. Enabling communities in this country to resist the pressure to mutilate their girls has achieved little. Over many years our impotent hand-wringing has condemned countless girls to a lifetime of pain and infection and possible infertility. Would we tolerate it if white women had to have their scar tissue cut open on their wedding night?

Vera Lustig



While, according to the Oxford Dictionary, your use of the word “circumcision” is correct in contemporary usage, the term derives from the Latin “circumcise” (to “cut around”). For boys, this is the removal of a small section of prepuce, leaving intact the glans with its promise of a lifetime of erotic pleasure.

For girls, “female circumcision” is a violent amputation that removes the clitoris, the main, and for most women the most satisfying, physical source of pleasure. It is emphatically not circumcision, nor simply “genital mutilation”, and the physical, sensual and emotional scars that remain are profoundly distinct from those of male circumcision.

It is deeply disturbing that the Observer does not name this horrific practice for what it is – clitoral amputation.

Professor Dr Suzanne Buchan

University for the Creative Arts, Farnham College


In your editorial about female circumcision you refer to the “queasiness on the part of officials to intervene against a traditional practice”. Does this include doctors? If evidence of gunshot or knife wounds can be passed on to the police then one assumes that child mutilation can be, given that they are all probably the result of illegal acts.

I hope your heartbreaking, but encouraging, article is just the start of a sustained campaign against this horrendous activity.

Andrew Dean


I first encountered this practice as a medical student in obstetrics and then again when working as a doctor in reproductive and sexual health. As the feature rightly points out, it continues to be inflicted on British citizens despite its illegality. Worldwide there is no indication of any reduction in the number of young girls made to suffer this procedure in countries with a strong cultural tradition. The health risks, both physical and psychological, are evident and raising awareness and education are essential if this practice is ever to be ended. How this is to be achieved is problematical but your article is a step in the right direction.

Dr Christine Mustchin

Hove, East Sussex

Your reference to “this brutal cultural practice” perpetuates the tendency to devalue the term “cultural”. It is regrettable that it is increasingly applied to all sorts of cruel, perverse and degrading deeds. My dictionary defines it as “cultivated: well educated: refined”. Genital mutilation is none of these. It may be described as “practice” but one that is revolting and criminal. As your article rightly points it out: “It is condemned by many Islamic scholars and predates both the Qur’an and the Bible and possibly even Judaism, appearing in the 2nd century BC.” It should have been repudiated long ago along with other barbaric rituals of the distant and murky past. Genital mutilation should never be given credence as something “cultural”.

Professor PP Anthony