On the 18th of June The Economist published an article Female Genital Mutilation: An Agonising Choice. The article advocates to lift the blanket ban on FGM and allow the ‘least nasty’ forms of the practice. The full article can be found here.
FORWARD was part of the End FGM European Network statement on the article and co-signed a letter written by Orchid Project and ActionAid to The Economist. You can read the European Network statement here.
FORWARD’s full comment is below:
As an organisation that has worked on ending FGM for over 30 years both in the UK and in Africa FORWARD was outraged at the recent article ‘An Agonising Choice’ by The Economist. The article is misleading on many levels; firstly FGM is a human rights abuse, like any other human rights abuse there can be no ‘lesser’ form which could ever be acceptable. Secondly, it is unacceptable to even consider a lesser form of any child abuse, which is illegal in the UK and in many other countries, as being the way to end that abuse.
Stating that less harmful forms of FGM have no lasting implications on women and girls is also wholly incorrect. If women who has undergone Type 1 or 2 FGM and not the most severe form of Type 3 were consulted then the physical and also psychological implications of all forms of FGM would become evident. There are also numerous studies which have documented the effect of all types of FGM on a woman’s health and wellbeing for the rest of her life. To state that a lesser form of FGM would be better is to undermine the suffering of millions of women worldwide. The article also fails to acknowledge the progress made in the past 30 years – and there has been progress! As the article states, between 1985-2015 prevalence rates of FGM have fallen from 51% to 37%, this may seem nothing to the author of this article, but it is hundreds of thousands of girls’ lives which have been spared the lifelong suffering of FGM.
Whilst looking at country prevalence rates is important, it can also be a blunt tool for assessing change. As an organisation that speaks directly to and works alongside FGM affected communities and grassroots organisations, FORWARD knows that massive strides have been made in countries outlawing the practice, and can see the impact of actions being taken by the communities affected by FGM in changing attitudes and behaviour. It may take a while to see the effects of these changes in behaviour reflected in statistics that are collected over many years, but to dismiss that they may be happening suggests a lack of knowledge and to propose a mild form of child abuse as an alternative is simply dangerous.