Legitimising Female Genital Mutilation is Never Right

June 28, 2016
Siobhán Crawford - Solicitor in the Child Abuse Team

Posted by: Siobhán Crawford


Imagine this scenario:

You know a child is going to be abused. You do not report it to the authorities You do not step in to stop it. You do not take any action whatsoever to prevent this happening.

Instead, you travel to where the abuse is being undertaken and record the events prior and after the abuse taking place. Then you transmit that footage on national television.

Appalling behaviour, right? You probably do not believe that something like that would even happen today. But it did.

Sky News

In early June, Sky News showed a film of a very young Somali girl undergoing Female Genital Mutilation, known as FGM. Despite activists and charities speaking out and urging Sky News not to show this clip they went ahead and did so in any event.

I cannot bring myself to watch this clip because I understand it is horrifying and extremely distressing. I cannot bring myself to watch this clip because it is child abuse. I cannot bring myself to legitimise this footage because Sky News should know better.

Sky News says that the film treats a difficult subject with sensitivity and “captures the stark reality” of FGM so that their viewers will “understand the issues surrounding FGM”.

I have many problems with this video recording. I genuinely do not believe that showing a film of a 7 year old girl undergoing FGM helps individuals understand the reality of this practice. This can be done using actors, the narrative of survivors who can decide whether they wish to share their story or, as Leyla Hussein does, vagina cupcakes.

Which brings me on to my next concern. A 7 year old cannot consent to her abuse being filmed and transmitted to the masses.

Let me repeat that. A 7 year old girl. Why did no one intervene? Why did a television crew stand by and watch a child being abused? Why was child abuse even transmitted?

I am sure the intentions of Sky News were genuinely trying to highlight how repugnant this practice is but this was just not the right way to go about it.

The Economist – Adding Insult to Injury

The Economist’s leading article on 18 June 2016 stated that some “minor” forms of FGM should be permissible so that girls at risk of FGM are not subjected to more extreme harm.

A further article in the same publication attempts to distinguish between “harmless” FGM and “atrocious” cutting.

Many FGM activists and charities, including 28 Too Many, an anti FGM charity of which I am Chair, have objected in the strongest terms to this irresponsible journalism. A petition has been started urging The Economist to retract these incredibly damaging articles.

The worrying part of these articles is that they emanate from what is generally considered to be a well-respected publication. A journal such as The Economist publishing articles like these means that those who practise FGM feel the practice is justifiable. Not only that but these articles are in direct contravention of the World Health Organisation’s advice.

Despite the above, The Economist refuses to comment upon the protestations of anti FGM campaigners stating that the article is “their statement”.

If you wish to sign the petition urging The Economist to reconsider their position it can be found here.

I am a Senior Solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp specialising in Child Abuse claims. I am also the Chair and trustee of anti FGM charity, 28 Too Many.

If you think you may have a claim, contact me free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4886 or at SiobhanCrawford@boltburdonkemp.co.uk for specialist legal advice. Alternatively, you can complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Child Abuse team will contact you. You can find out more about the team here.

Posted by: Siobhán Crawford

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