We’ll never know how many children in the world have bled to death because their local village butcher, cheered on by their mother, slashed so deeply at their genitalia with a shard of glass that the butcher, instead of just destroying their lives, killed them.

A handful of people have ever cared about this outcome… Have ever allowed themselves to imagine the agonizing death of a six-year-old without access to painkillers, let alone medical care, as she bleeds out…

And after all, if these children hadn’t been witches they wouldn’t have died.


As the latest FGM deaths in Somalia actually manage to make the world news, people are allowing themselves to wonder whether this country, where 98% of little girls are slashed, might actually start protecting its children from this practice. But:

1. Somalia has no law against FGM and isn’t in the business of getting one.
2. Even if there were a law, people would ignore it.
3. The government of Somalia claims it’s going to find and prosecute the people who created the three latest child corpses, but go ahead and ask UD if she thinks that that spectacularly failed state will find and prosecute anyone.
4. The butchers are people in high standing in the community, with a serious financial investment in FGM. (When you’re finished imagining the children’s deaths, imagine an impoverished local family working themselves to the bone to scrape up enough money to pay for their daughter to be eviscerated.) No one will go against them.


And 5.: What’s the problem here? Cutters have been at it in England for decades, and everyone knows it, and there’s a law against it, and not one prosecution has been successful. In America there’s a bunch of cutters on trial in Detroit as we speak, and no less a figure than Alan Dershowitz has come to their defense.



“I believe that the [Somali Attorney General] was [speaking harshly about the practice] for press. When the cameras are not there, I doubt there is much interest in [this] case or any others,” [a British Somali activist] says.

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4 Responses to “Death by Two Hundred Million Cuts”

  1. theprofessor Says:

    The problem here, UD, is that you have funky indigenous folk doing funky indigenous stuff and making them stop doing funky indigenous stuff is yet more Western imperialism and cultural genocide and we are SOOOOO not going there.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    tp: Yes. It’s a terrible problem, as with Julia Kristeva’s obscene enthusiasm, years ago, for foot binding.

    But I think we’ve made progress since then, at least with the idea of universal human rights as something many reasonable people can use in the fight against vicious religious/obscurantist ritual. I even anticipate the day when people will stop cutting off part of their infant sons’ dicks.

  3. theprofessor Says:

    I don’t see much progress on these academic shores, UD. Back in the 1990s, FGM was a major topic in some classes here in a range of departments, as was burqa-oppression. Today? Well, pretty much mum’s the word. We wouldn’t want to offend someone, especially paying customers, I mean students, overwhelmingly male, of course, from particular countries.

  4. dmf Says:

    we’ve gotta stop this nightmarish treatment of refugees

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