Response to a Manifesto by Action:FGM, Dahlia Project, Savera UK, Magool, and The VAvengers

30/01/2020 Comments Off on Response to a Manifesto by Action:FGM, Dahlia Project, Savera UK, Magool, and The VAvengers

Your Manifesto has been shared with me as someone who has written on FGM and published papers on it in the journal Reproductive Health Matters while I was the editor.

I am absolutely not willing to sign your manifesto. Here is why:

First, it is incorrect in a number of places:

1. FGM is not an epidemic. An epidemic is: “the widespread occurrence of an infectious disease”. FGM is a harmful traditional practice. Moreover, its prevalence has been falling internationally since at least 2013, thanks to positive educational campaigns about why it is harmful and also because so many women in the communities where it was traditionally practised have decided themselves to stop the practice. Including in the UK.

2. You have distorted the figures about prevalence in the UK. You seem to be making the false assumption that all the daughters of all the women in the UK who had FGM as children in another country are at risk. There is absolutely no credible evidence to show this. You may believe these figures since so many other anti-FGM groups use them as well. But they are absolutely wrong and all of you should stop bandying them about without checking the source — because you actually do not understand what the source says.

3. Your description of FGM uses gross exaggeration. The severity of the cutting in many countries has been greatly reduced because of educational campaigns, and also because many people are going to medical doctors for it, the same as they are doing with male circumcision. You don’t even mention this. I would very much like to know where you got your information to claim that FGM is done many times, let alone more than once, to the same child. I have never seen any such published, peer-reviewed evidence.

4. Can you also provide published, peer-reviewed evidence that “A survivor may require invasive surgeries throughout her life as a result”. Do you have any evidence that this happens in the UK, since your call for action is about the UK?

5. Can you also provide published, peer-reviewed evidence that “FGM is part of a continuum of violence against women and girls”?

6. And again, what is your evidence regarding this claim: “Tackling FGM provides the pathway to eradicating these other forms of gender-based violence.” It’s a completely spurious claim, not least because you don’t define what you mean by “tackling FGM”.

It is highly irresponsible to make these claims without evidence. People’s lives are put at risk, children are being taken away from their parents for no reason, and whole communities are affected.

As regards “what needs to be done”:

7. You call for more convictions and yet if you look at the number of times the police and the DPP have sought convictions and failed, because they arrested people without credible evidence, because they were overly keen to prosecute, you might want to think again. Has it ever crossed your minds that the reason there have been next to no convictions is because FGM is not being done much in the UK? It’s not possible ethically or legally to assume risk exists because of ethnic origin or, for example, to treat everyone in an airport with suspicion, arrest them and put their children into care just because they are going abroad (which has happened).

8. You call for every female patient in the country to be questioned by GPs, thus criminalising all of us??? This is absurd and unethical.

9. You mention the recent conviction in Ireland. Are you aware that when the police were unable to identify anyone who could have carried out the alleged cutting, they said it must have been a witch? And are you aware that in the conviction here in London last year, the mother who was sent to prison was also accused of witchcraft, and false claims were made in court that FGM and witchcraft are linked, and that this successfully demonised her? Do you actually think this represents justice? Or do you yourselves believe in witches?

10. You want to pay people to report cases? Welcome to the Stasi in East Germany. Or don’t you know that people will lie for money.

I recommend you withdraw this manifesto because it contains unsubstantiated information, proposes nothing of value, discredits you and your groups, and if taken seriously, can do serious harm to innocent people because it calls for criminalising large numbers of people because they are women, and due to their ethnic and racial background. I think it’s shameful.

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