Sunday, 15 November 2015

Female Genital Mutilation and prosecutions in the UK

The UK cannot boast a single conviction for FGM, compared to the 100 plus recorded in France. Why is this? Part of the answer might lie in the nature of the two legal systems – the inquisitorial in France, and the adversarial in Britain.

In short, the aim of the French system is to establish the truth. By contrast, the truth is not relevant to the outcome of a British criminal trial, (or a criminal trial in any country where the adversarial system is practised.)

The French system is based on a presumption of guilt. The process is investigative and works backwards from that premise. In the adversarial system, all investigation has taken place before the case has come to trial, after which, two counsels engage in a contest played according to certain rules.

The onus is on the prosecuting counsel to prove the guilt of the defendant, ”beyond reasonable doubt”, and the defendant is presumed innocent. This is one of the cherished features of our system, frequently commended as a liberty that we should be proud of. But investigations into miscarriages of justice tend to begin from the premise that the guilty verdict was correct and work backwards, finding the essential flaw as it proceeds, i. e. follow the French model.

I suspect that the adversary system is as likely to let the guilty go free as it is to condemn the innocent. The daughter of a well known Scottish barrister once told me of the occasion when her Father was greeted with the words,”You almost had me believing I didnae do it”, by a notorious Glaswegian hoodlum that he had just successfully defended!
My opinion!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Female Genital Mutilation V Male Circumcision

There is always a problem when people do compare things that should not be compared. In this case I mean FGM and MGM and I am realising each time I say FGM must end, then someone would say how about MGM. I never said MGM is good but comparing the two, FGM mutilation is the worst and here is why.

Frankly, the commonly performed version of male circumcision isn’t as serious as many of the widely performed FGM practices. Yes, removal of the foreskin causes harm and, despite claims to the contrary, has no detectable medical benefits, but FGM often goes far further. Leaving aside the horrible pain that the severe mutilation of a structure as sensitive as the clitoris causes (to have anything approaching a point of comparison, don’t think of removal of the foreskin, think instead of someone cutting a chunk out of your glans) The scarring of the woman’s genital tract can easily result in Obstetric fistula and complications in pregnancy or birth, assuming that the victim does not die soon after the initial mutilation occurs due to blood-loss or secondary infection.

In some forms of FGM, the entire clitoris and most of the labia are excised in their entirety, and the vaginal opening sewn shut except for a small aperture left for urine and other bodily secretion, until the victims wedding night, when the stitching is either cut or ripped open. The level of physical and emotional trauma the victims suffer is hard to imagine.

Then there is the social context of the respective behaviours. Removal of the male prepuce, while painful, disturbing and entirely unnecessary, is viewed primarily as a form of rite of passage – a means of identifying the victim as part of the in group. While these elements also feature in FGM, the symbolism goes far further. The labia and clitoris are removed in a bid to destroy the victim’s ability to experience sexual pleasure, as an expression of the utter contempt that the cultures and religions that perform this horrific abuse hold women and female sexuality in. It is believed that by removing these structures, women will not be ‘tempted’ to take charge of their own sexuality. Further, some cultures believe that by excising the seat of female sexual pleasure you also remove a component of the woman’s free will, thus rendering her more biddable. It is a twisted attempt at sympathetic-magic-based mind-control.

Finally, there is in some ways the most horrific and repugnantly misogynist component of all – in no small degree FGM is performed in pursuit of the aesthetic preferences and perceived convenience of the men of these cultures. It is a concrete expression of the idea within these societies that women aren’t actual people at all – that they exist as mere chattel for men, to be used for the pleasure and gratification of men and discarded at the whim of men.
Given all these factors, comparing male circumcision and FGM as somehow equivalent is highly inappropriate, and may easily be interpreted as an attempt to dismiss the suffering, and silence the voices, of women by means of a wilfully facile comparison to a superficially similar cultural rite that doesn’t cause anything approaching the same level of physical harm or carry the same toxic social baggage.

Think again and help us end female genital mutilation.