History of a kind was made last week. A doctor appeared before a medical malpractice tribunal in Manchester accused of performing surgery to mutilate the genitals of female babies or young girls.A medical malpractice tribunal? Why not a court of law? I thought the CPS was supposed to be hot to trot on these cases?
British campaigners against the practice often point admiringly to the more repressive approach adopted in France. Britain has purpose-made laws against female genital mutilation (FGM) but there have been no prosecutions. France has no specific laws against FGM but there have been 29 trials and 100 convictions in the last three decades. We and the French often do things differently. On this issue, are the French right?Well, why not look at what effect it’s having? Is the incidence of FGM actually reducing in France? There’s anecdotal evidence that it is indeed working:
Has legal repression worked in France? Koudedia Keita, the Malian-born president of a French pressure group against FGM, “Corps en Marche”, believes that it has.
“By the nature of this practice, it is difficult to be sure, but yes, it is my impression that female mutilation has been reduced enormously in France,” Ms Keita said.But we know the progressives scorn anecdotal evidence (until they want to use some, of course!). So, are there any figures?
In the early 1980s, analysis of the examinations showed that if a mother had been “excisée” (mutilated), there was an 80 per cent chance that her daughter would also have been subjected to FGM. A survey in 2007 suggested this had been reduced to 11 per cent.Of course, it isn’t all stick and no carrot. It is indeed a multi-pronged approach.
France’s action against FGM is not based purely on repression. There has been an intensive campaign of education. Health and education professionals have been trained to be aware of the problem. Girls are systematically examined for signs of FGM during health checks carried out on babies.So, who could possibly argue that France isn’t leading the way, then? Well, there’s always one, isn’t there?
Amnesty International, which has campaigned for a Europe-wide approach to FGM, does not believe that legal repression is the answer. Christine Loudes, director of the Amnesty campaign “End FGM” told The Independent: “The debate in the UK about more prosecutions misses the point. Legal repression, although it may have its place, is not the best answer.”
“We need to work with the communities where this happens to try to change attitudes, not to drive the problem further underground. Since the instigator or perpetrator is often the parent, legal action leads to double victimisation of the child. We should consider the best interests of the children before we rush to send their parents to prison.”That’s a rather odd reason, isn’t it? Would it be applied to any other crime against a child? Would it apply to those abused by their parents?
And if not...why should it apply here?