Opposition to FGM must not lead to prejudice | Nadifa Mohamed

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‘How would I persuade the United kingdom Border company that I hadn’t done some thing abhorrent to my youngsters?’ Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive/Press Association Pictures

The Guardian’s campaign has put female genital mutilation firmly on the political agenda, with Michael Gove, Ban Ki-Moon and Malala Yousafzai throwing their excess weight behind it. I am heartened that the bodily autonomy of young African and Asian women is becoming taken significantly, and I hope that concrete assistance will be given to people at chance: the bodily, psychological and social harm of FGM fails girls, and what ever justifications kept it alive for millennia, have no fat against the concept that a child’s physique is excellent and healthful the way it is created.

Even so, the sudden, intense emphasis on a practice that very handful of men and women stick to in Britain – and the lack of clarity on who is undertaking it, the place and why – has allowed negative stereotypes to run amok.

I was raised in Britain within a Somali family members and, inside of my comprehending, the huge vast majority of Somali families who settle here abandon FGM. The sturdy societal pressures in east Africa do not apply right here, and there is not a framework of skilled and easily available “cutters”.

The widely quoted figure of 24,000 British girls being “at threat” would have us think that 88% of British Somali girls are in danger. In fact, this figure originally derives from World Health Organisation and Unicef estimates, some dating back to the 1990s, from “sources of variable high quality”, about the prevalence of the practice in numerous African nations. These figures have then been extrapolated, some assuming there is the very same likely prevalence amongst below-16 ladies from individuals nations now residing in the Uk. In other phrases, these are crude estimates based mostly on unreliable data – and many many years out of date. There is no doubt there are instances of FGM in this country – and even one is too several – but in our horror over the practice we must resist the urge to potentially exaggerate its scale. The numbers of particular allegations are far lower than the headlines propose and, even though the police have been alerted, there has not however been ample proof to obtain a single conviction.

Nadifa girls Teenage girls at an soon after-college club in Hargeisa, Somaliland, a breakaway area of Somalia. ‘Prejudices regarding Somalis, Islam and ‘backward African tribal customs’ are conflated to create an image of a dark, brutal, incorrigible mass.’ Photograph: Jason Straziuso/AP

This is important since the tough talk about clamping down on FGM has led to a slightly hysterical perspective among health workers. 1 elderly Somali female I know entered hospital with a heart complaint but identified herself being quizzed about a process on her genitals 60 years earlier in an additional horror story a lady in labour was taken care of as a circus exhibit when midwives identified she had been infibulated, the attention out of the blue on the spectacle in between her legs rather than on her urgent needs. This naturally isn’t beneficial, and I hope that as the conversation widens and deepens it will become significantly less likely.

The comments left on the Guardian internet site following previous FGM posts appear to justify a whole lot of the doubts that Somalis, regardless of wanting to end FGM, have about how the campaign can portray them. “Uncut ladies are disowned, cast out and raped and abused” – they are not. “It is all about cruel evil psychopaths who love triggering soreness” – it isn’t. “Are they insane or just reduced intelligence?” Why not both?

Prejudices concerning Somalis, Islam and “backward African tribal customs” (a phrase that regularly pops up) are conflated to develop an image of a dark, brutal, incorrigible mass who, to use Kipling’s phrase, are “half devil, half little one” and as a result cannot be trusted to even increase their own young children decently. There is lots of resentment towards immigrants in this country, some of it centuries previous, some of it a product of latest changes, and the remedies provided to cease FGM – hang them, minimize their hands off, get their young children away, deport them – appear to betray a wider antipathy rather than an sincere concern for affected youngsters.

The proposed quit and perhaps search of “at-threat” families re-entering British airports in the course of college holidays, reported final month, also can make me uncomfortable. Once again, does this in result imply that all east and west African travellers will be underneath suspicion?

I am striving to think about how I would really feel if I have been returning house with my kids soon after a long, arduous journey and forced to answer inquiries that insinuated I had accomplished one thing I found abhorrent to them. How would I persuade the United kingdom Border Company that this was not the case? Would they interrogate my children? Would they demand that I strip them? It is already challenging ample travelling as black and Muslim and dealing with official suspicion I am frequently pulled above for extra protection checks and have to describe what business I have going exactly where I’m going. It is a humiliating expertise and one that too a lot of young children have to witness presently.

Now Michael Gove, the training secretary, will be creating to schools asking them to assist safeguard women. Once again, this aid wants to be supplied really sensitively. Will teachers single out African and Asian ladies, both on their own or – worse – in front of their classmates? Even a standard talk to the whole class could lead to eyes turning to the brown ladies.

It appears much more wise to use GPs and neighborhood groups as the stage of get in touch with a relationship wants to be built before any back links are produced to these children who are genuinely at chance rather than just falling into broad ethnic groupings. For this campaign to really contribute some thing to the battle towards FGM rather than just spilling more ink on a topic that has provoked much pearl-clutching horror over the years, we need to have to integrate east African or west African young children – or whoever is at threat of FGM – into the current kid protection framework. If we are to consider FGM significantly we want to make positive those exact same youngsters are protected from violence, homelessness, hunger and all other abuses.

A recurring obstacle is how ignorant mainstream society is of the lives of recent migrants. We have to speak to them and, most of all, listen to them rather than talking about them in the most fearful and contemptuous tones. We want exact and up-to-date figures on the genuine scale of the dilemma.

I hope this campaign does not go the very same way as Kony 2012 and become consumed by its very own flash-in-the-pan moral panic, with all the grandstanding and backslapping that entails, which isn’t going to obtain something. What I want to see is kids with migrant backgrounds – in truth all children – becoming so deeply valued in this society that there is a plethora of help for no matter what troubles they face.

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