The following is a response by one of our readers to a misleading story from the ABC which was also published here:
It helps to be informed.
I refer to your story on Female Genital Mutilation and in particular the following statement:
This statement is not only misleading, it is incorrect. Section e4.3 of the Islamic Sharia Law manual states unequivocally that circumcision is obligatory for both men AND women;
Please issue a statement reversing this mistake in your article and please ensure that facts are reported accurate before printing them!
ASHLEY HALL: Serious questions are being asked about how widely female genital mutilation is practised in Australia. It follows the arrest of four people in Sydney yesterday over the alleged mutilation of two young girls.
Medical professionals in Australia say there’s no evidence to suggest female genital mutilation is commonplace. But the New South Wales Minister for Community Services says she doesn’t think the practice is rare.
Emily Bourke reports.
EMILY BOURKE: The charging of four people over the circumcision of two young girls in Sydney has prompted fears that other cases have gone undetected.
The New South Wales Minister for Community Services Pru Goward has told Sydney Radio 2GB she doesn’t think it’s an isolated case.
PRU GOWARD: I certainly think there is that possibility because we have a number of communities in New South Wales where that would be considered an acceptable practice but they certainly know it’s illegal now.
EMILY BOURKE: Police say they’re not aware of other incidents at this stage, but they can’t discount the fact that there may be more victims.
But Professor Ajay Rane from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists isn’t so sure.
AJAY RANE: But I wouldn’t be surprised if there are sporadic incidents given the fact that we have a larger sub-Saharan community coming into Australia where this practice is culturally very dominant but I would still believe that the practice is sporadic rather than common because there are no clinical hospital reports of major genital trauma following these procedures being reported in Australia.
EMILY BOURKE: He says he has been asked to perform the procedure but not here.
AJAY RANE: When I was practicing in England I’ve had requests made by highly education couples requesting that their nine and 10 year old girl have a small nick. I was shocked about that. When I refused they said, well if you don’t do it, someone in a back street with a rusty blade is going to do it. So it’s a very strong cultural propagation.
EMILY BOURKE: A shiek from the suburb of Auburn has been charged in relation to the female circumcision of the two girls, which has raised questions about whether the Muslim community is condoning the practice.
Professor Ajay Rane again.
AJAY RANE: I have operated in Egypt, I have operated in Nigeria so I can vouch that some of these practices are very, very harmful to women and there is some degree of religious coercion for this highly cultural phenomenon. I don’t think religion dictates it but there is some dictation by religious leaders to ensure that this continues.
EMILY BOURKE: Hanny Lightfoot-Klein is a leading international expert on female genital mutilation. Her research across Africa over several decades has been published in four books. She says categorically there is no link with Islam.
HANNY LIGHTFOOT-KLEIN: No one really knows where the whole thing started. It’s often been described as Muslim but there’s nothing really, you investigate all the Muslim actual activities and it’s never been actually, it’s not because of the religion.
EMILY BOURKE: And she adds that one of the features of the practice is that it’s perpetrated by women on their daughters.
HANNY LIGHTFOOT-KLEIN: There is hatred, and there is rage. There is tremendous anger, so what do you do with this? You can’t stop it once it has been done, then they will have to do it to somebody else. If they have suffered, there is somebody else, let them suffer as well so they won’t be giving away something for nothing. They’re going to get it too.
EMILY BOURKE: And she says the practice increasingly common.
HANNY LIGHTFOOT KLEIN: It’s getting larger and larger and more and more practiced.
EMILY BOURKE: Why is the practice growing?
HANNY LIGHTFOOT-KLEIN: Sometimes we wonder, sometimes we’re like why? It’s not, you can’t make answers.
EMILY BOURKE: The retired Sydney nurse charged with performing the procedure on the two girls will face court early next month.
ASHLEY HALL: Emily Bourke with that report.