FGM: Cultural concerns

April 27, 2012, 1:24 PM GMT+0

Britons divided on why UK prosecution rate for female genital mutilation is zero despite 1985 law

Although female genital mutilation (or 'female circumcision') has been illegal in Britain since 1985, no prosecutions have taken place in this country, and Britons are divided over whether this is because of the difficulty of gathering evidence, or because of cultural sensitivity concerns.

While FGM – allegedly still carried out regularly across the world as a means of controlling female sexuality and 'marriageability' ‒ has been illegal in this country for over 25 years, it has only been illegal for the procedure to be done to a British citizen abroad since 2003. It is estimated that tens of thousands of British women have suffered female genital mutilation, either abroad or in the UK itself ‒ but despite this, no prosecutions have taken place.

  • 37% think the police have not made any prosecutions for female genital mutilation because of 'concerns about cultural sensitivities'
  • 34% believe the police have not made any prosecutions because 'it is difficult to gather evidence of procedures conducted abroad'
  • 6% say some other reason is behind the lack of prosecutions
  • 24% aren't sure why there have been no prosecutions

Cultural sensitivity...and controversy

The issue of cultural sensitivity has proven problematic for many nations who have tried to outlaw female circumcision over the last decade.

Research suggests that every year, despite being a country that does not practice or endorse such traditions, more than 22,000 girls in the UK are at risk of the procedure. The Metropolitan Police has reported that since 2008 it has received 166 reports of people who feared they knew someone who could be at risk of FGM, yet no one has ever been convicted of the offence.

Attempts to halt the practice in countries such as Kenya, where measures to prevent the tradition of FGM often see strong opposition, alternative preventative methods such as Ntanira Na Mugambo ‒ also known as 'circumcision by words' ‒ have been introduced.

Health workers have reportedly adopted the new strategy as a less confrontational approach, which combines education with an understanding of the negative effects female genital mutilation, and is aimed at young women, family members, and men in the community.

FGM has recently been the subject of media controversy closer to home, however, as Swedish Minister of Culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, caused outrage and discussion when pictures emerged of her cutting a 'traditional African woman' art installation cake – ostensibly created by the artist Makode Aj Linde to raise awareness of FGM.

See the survey details and full results here (page 15)