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'A Symbolic Nick'? Offensive and Damaging to FGM Survivors

30/06/2016 09:00

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the horrifying practice of the removal of some or all of a girls external genitalia. It is child abuse and a violation of human rights, done specifically to subjugate women.

According to the Home Affairs Select Committee, 125million women worldwide have undergone FGM. There are four different types of FGM, which can be the removal of some or all of the clitoris to the narrowing of the vaginal opening by sewing over the outer labia. All of which cause long lasting physical and emotional impacts on the victims of the practice. Some of these impacts include infections, difficulty urinating, pain during sex and difficulty during childbirth.

I was horrified to read the recent Economist article - 'An agonising choice' - which seeks to legitimise 'the least nasty' forms of FGM as a new approach to responding to FGM.

Everything is 'nasty' about being pinned down against your will to be mutilated by someone you thought you could trust. FGM is an act of physical abuse forced upon innocent girls which holds no medical rationale. The practice is fundamentally rooted in patriarchy and is about controlling a women's sexuality; prolonging her virginity, making sex less pleasurable for her and to make her faithful to her husband.

The Economist has claimed that instead of trying to stamp out FGM altogether, governments should ban only the worst forms of FGM and permit those that cause 'no long- lasting harm'. These include, according to The Economist, incisions or pricks and the symbolic act of rubbing the genitals with herbs. The Economist does not seem to understand that the touching of a girl's genitals to conduct a partriarchal violation of women's and girl's rights is child abuse.

The article further refers to the practice as a "symbolic nick". By referring to FGM in this way rather than referring to it as what it is, mutilation, The Economist is down playing the practice as a simple procedure that does not cause long lasting physical and emotional trauma to victims.

FGM is child abuse. It must be viewed in this way in order for policy to move forward and to end the practice once and for all. The idea that governments should be allowing certain forms of FGM to be permitted is ridiculous. It would legitimise the practise as a normal part of culture rather than calling it out for what it is. The Economist is perpetuating the idea that FGM can be legitimised because it's done as a symbolic act. FGM is an act of a patriarchal society and all forms must be viewed as a serious crime.

I fear the impact that The Economist's article could have on people who may think after reading it that a 'least nasty' form of FGM exists and could help stop other nastier forms. This could pull back progress and put thousands more girls at risk of child abuse.

The Economist throughout their article have been incredibly offensive. The article takes back progress made by dedicated campaigners and activists by years. FGM is not a 'symbolic nick' it is a horrifying practice which we should be doing everything in our power to put an end to once and for all. FGM is child abuse and cannot be permitted under the view that it's symbolic. I am horrified by The Economist article.

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