Odd though it may seem to older readers, the Crown Prosecution Service now regards itself as a liberal organ of the state. This week it is making a great play of its success in deterring violence against women. Its lawyers brought 91,000 domestic violence prosecutions last year and secured 67,000 convictions. As I have mentioned in this space before, many criminologists believe that the willingness, not just of prosecutors and the police but of wider society, to take violence against women and children seriously explains the welcome fall in homicide rate. But officialdom’s concern for abused women is strictly colour coded. The CPS will defend women’s rights, but only the rights of white women. Girls with black or brown skins can go hang — or, rather go have their genitalia cut to pieces.
In a report for BBC Newsnight , Sue Lloyd Roberts investigated what euphemists call ‘female circumcision’. I have sympathy with the German court which said that male circumcision was an assault on boys unable to give informed consent, that no rabbi or imam parroting the dictates of Judaism or Islam could excuse. But the female and male versions of ‘circumcision’ are not comparable. Twenty thousand British girls, mainly the daughters of immigrants from Africa, are at risk of what the World Health Organisation calls Type III ‘infibulation’. Their mothers or grandmothers, or maybe an iman or some other variety of priest or ‘traditional healer’ cut off the inner and outer labia and clitoris with scissors or a knife. They tie together the girl’s legs for a month so that the labial tissue bonds. It forms a wall of flesh and skin across the vulva, leaving only a hole the size of a matchstick. Sexual intercourse and childbirth, and the passage of urine and menstrual blood become incredibly painful.
Beyond continuing a barbaric tradition, and one should never underestimate the appeal of doing what has always been done, FGM ensures that women remain the property of men. The bridegroom can be certain his bride is a virgin, and have some confidence that she will not sleep around, because the second object of the exercise is to reduce the woman’s libido.