Female genital mutilation and ‘Islamic culture’
Sir, – We wish to object strongly to comments made by Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre, Dublin, in relation to female genital mutilation (FGM) (“Leading Muslim figure Ali Selim backs female circumcision”, Online, February 9th).
Female circumcision is no longer a phrase acceptable to any medical or other authority. Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. There are no health benefits to FGM. The campaign to end FGM is supported by the UN, UN Women, Unicef, the World Health Organisation, the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, as well as many other women’s health and human rights organisations, including the Global Media Campaign to End FGM (based in London and working in Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Puntland and Sierra Leone) and the Ifrah Foundation (based in Ireland and working in Somalia).
FGM is illegal under the Irish Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012. Under the 2012 legislation, not only is FGM prohibited in Ireland, it is also a criminal offence for a person to take a girl to another country to undergo such a procedure.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) supports the ending of FGM and rejects any religious justification for the practice.
It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have had FGM. Furthermore, there are an estimated three million girls at risk of undergoing FGM every year.
The serious long-term gynaecological, urological, pain-related and psycho-sexual consequences of FGM are well recognised – as well as the risk of dying from haemorrhage and infection at the time of mutilation. FGM also causes deaths in women and babies as a consequence of complications of childbirth in countries where it is practiced.
Over 5,000 women living in Ireland may have experienced FGM and many young girls here may be at risk of being taken abroad to have the procedure. The Irish Family Planning Association provides free specialised medical care and counselling to women and girls in Ireland who have experienced FGM.
The comments made by Dr Ali Selim in relation to FGM are medically incorrect and highly dangerous in both advocating for this criminal procedure and in encouraging parents to consider it for their daughters. These views are also deeply offensive to women who have undergone FGM – and also to all who support the global campaign to put an end to this heinous practice – including the millions linked into #MeTooFGM (launched in Dublin on February 6th to coincide with UN Zero Tolerance to FGM Day).
We believe that the interview of Dr Selim on Prime Time and its coverage by The Irish Times did not allow his views to be directly challenged by experts who oppose FGM and as such were unbalanced and potentially misleading.
Finally we wish to call on the religious leaders of all religions and denominations to support unequivocally the ending of FGM. – Yours, etc,
Prof CHRIS FITZPATRICK
MAGGIE O’ KANE ,
Global Media Campaign
to End FGM,
Bartholemew Road, London.
Sir, – Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh in Dublin puts forward the opinion that female genital mutilation (Dr Selim prefers the term “female circumcision”) is justified if advised by a medical doctor. There is never a medical need to cut out, and sew up a girl’s genitalia. The results can lead to death; very often FGM is a precursor to early marriage for girls and to enduring lifelong pain and health difficulties.
The practice of FGM is a form of child abuse, it is a crime in Ireland since 2012, and is outlawed in growing numbers of countries across the world, including many where FGM has been seen as part of traditional culture. FGM is mostly performed on girls between five and 14 years of age.
The focus must be on providing support to women already affected, to raise awareness to combat the practice and to prevent girls being subjected to this appalling practice. – Yours, etc,
Parnell Square,Dublin 1.
Sir, – In your article on female genital mutilation, it is stated that an expert medical opinion should be sought before such a “procedure” is carried out. I am a gynaecologist of 25 years standing. I know of no medical indication for female genital circumcision or mutilation. There is, however, the psychogenic and moral dysfunction of the perpetrators of such barbarity, undoubtedly well classified within the diagnostic lexicon of forensic psychiatry.
It is gratifying to know that should they ever attempt such an aggravated assault contrary to the statutory law of this country, when apprehended such criminals will feel the full weight of that law.
Dr TONY WALSH,
Sir, – While I commend the work done by Dr Dr Caroline Munyi (Sheila Wayman, “Female genital mutilation: It’s happening here, girls are being taken out of Ireland”, Health & Family, February 6th) it needs to be made clear at the very outset of these workshops for our new citizens originally from countries where female genital mutilation (FGM) was performed that in Ireland anyone who does this or permits this to be done to their children will face jail and may well have their children taken from them and placed in care. Full stop.
And that it being part of their “culture” will never be a valid defence.
Our legislators have made FGM illegal; our judiciary need to send out a very clear message of zero tolerance when cases come before them.
Those on whom this barbarism has been performed, however, deserve all of our empathy and help, and I congratulate IFPA medical director Dr Caitriona Henchion for her fantastic work in this area. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The claim by the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland’s Dr Ali Selim that “female circumcision” is an inherited practice that “cannot be banned but reasonably considered” is disturbing. Under Irish law there is no difference between female circumcision and FGM.
Dr Ali Selim also suggested on RTÉ’s Prime Time that parents considering such a procedure should consult a medical doctor.
Unfortunately such a consultation will not always safeguard a young girl from this grotesque practice. In the US two doctors are currently before the courts charged with carrying out FGM on two seven-year-old girls from Minnesota.
One of the doctors is suspected of carrying out over 100 such procedures over several years. Both are members of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim sect that practices FGM for religious and cultural reasons. – Yours, etc,