Douglas Murray Douglas Murray

Does America oppose female genital mutilation – or not?

Twenty years ago almost no one in the West had heard of Female Genital Mutilation. Then in the 2000s, thanks to a few brave and vocal campaigners like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, knowledge of this barbaric practice began to spread.

Originally there was some queasiness about taking up the subject at all. Lawmakers and opinion formers took a while to work out their line. There was an early question mark over whether FGM wasn’t just the same as male circumcision. Most people swiftly learned that the difference was, gynaecologically speaking, almost everything. There were some hold-outs among people who thought that since FGM was practiced among Muslims there might be something ‘Islamophobic’ about objecting to the mutilation of young girls’ genitals with knives. On such fine judgement calls (‘child mutilation’ vs the suspicion of prejudice?) is the modern liberal conscience formed.

Eventually by this decade most countries in the West had settled on a consensus that FGM was wrong. Although the question of exactly what to do about it remained.

In the UK, a law banning the practice has actually been on the books for three decades. Yet to date only a handful of people have been charged with the offence and there has not been a single successful prosecution. Some of the reasons are understandable. Collecting evidence in such cases is difficult, and it often relies on children giving evidence about someone close to them. Nevertheless there is a huge question mark over the whole matter. If thousands of girls are being tortured and mutilated in your country every year why would the state not move heaven and earth to bring all those responsible to justice?

Now America has come to one of its stumbling moments in the prosecution of this crime.

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