Slave legacy

WITH regards to your report about a doctor accused of female genital mutilation (22 March), it is outlawed in the West and most nations where it occurs, but anthropologists claim the ban raises questions of pluralism in the post-colonial era. They argue the practice is an ethnic marker, rooted in tribal ideas of purity and regarded as the source of honour and authority essential to raising a daughter.

Around 125 million girls in Africa and the Middle East have undergone FGM and suffer chronic pain, recurrent infections, sterility, birth complications and fatal bleeding. There have been prosecutions in France, where the practice is subject to a penal code provision punishing violent acts against children that result in mutilation or disability. 

As in the UK, the initial reaction was not to intervene but the deaths of a number of girls and the horrendous and permanent impairment of others has resulted in more than 40 trials. Sadly, FGM increased a female slave’s value and its occurrence mirrors regional patterns of slavery, so it is ironic that a practice associated with servitude came to stand for honour.

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Howard Place

St Andrews, Fife