Welcome to Philosophical Investigations
This week's blog considers the issue of Female Genital Mutilation. Our "Teaching Ethics" conference at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, London, on June 17th was well recieved - more are planned from September and a programme will be out shortly.
blog this week: FGM - please add your comments!!!
Virtue Ethics will be out shortly, to be followed next month by Environmental and Business Ethics. Revision Guides and How to Get an A Grade (for OCR, AQA and Edexcel) also available trhough the summer - get ahead of your subject!
Teachers I hope you have a great summer break and don't forget - if you want to book me for next year get in early - my journeyings are strictly limited by my writing and other commitments (fishing, visiitng my rebellious children, mowing the lawn and conferences)!
Sexual Ethics and FGM
I have a theory that the most important ethical issues facing the world today are the ones people don’t want to talk about. And for those who have experienced it, few issues in sexual ethics can be more pressing then Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Consider the facts. Such figures as we have suggest that 75,000 girls living in the UK have experienced FGM. Around 6,000 girls are at risk this summer holidays. What does FGM involve? Unbearable almost to think about, it involves the removal of female genitalia without the administration of any anaesthetic, by surprise (girls who realised what was happening would presumably run and keep running), with older relatives forcibly restraining the victim (I deliberately use that word). In UK culture we would normally term this ‘grievous bodily harm’ or “child abuse’ and yet no-one has ever been prosecuted for it. If this sounds strange, even stranger is the fact that 4,000 cases have been recorded by London Hospitals, and yet it is officially illegal. How can this be, so many known cases, so little action?
Unfortunately we are gripped in our present age with a terrible vice which is called political correctness. It is politically incorrect to criticise openly those from different cultures or religions who we in our anglo-saxon view (what else can I call it?) judge to dress, think or behave wrongly. Police, Doctors, Teachers and Social Workers (those tasked with protecting public welfare) are afraid to speak or condemn for fear of being branded ‘racist’. Sad to say, but the racist allegation works both ways. It can be a reasonable, legitimate objection to an ingrained prejudice, or it can be an illegitimate, unreasonable slur levelled at those who have serious moral questions to raise.
FGM is part of the culture of such countries such as a Mali, where 90% of females endure this practice, or Somalia. The experience of full-blooded pain in FGM, without anaesthetic, is part of those culturally-conditioned ways of preparing women for adulthood and child-bearing. It is, in other words, a ‘rite of passage’.The UK has immigrants from both cultures. But should the sub-culture of such groups living in our ethnically and religiously diverse country be allowed to continue to practise such things which the majority of UK citizens would describe as abhorrent, immoral and highly abusive? Of course the answer has to be “of course not, that is a misunderstanding of multiculturalism”.
Yet here we come to the nub of the issue. I am about to sound a bit right wing, I realise this, but bear with me! Back in 1982 whilst in teacher training I remember we were discussing multiculturalism. I voiced the view that the idea of multiculturalism was deeply flawed because every society, to be cohesive, needs shared values, beliefs, aims, and even songs! (Shades of Norman Tebbit’s famous ‘which cricket side do you support test of Britishness’, but I’m making a more fundamental point here). The fundamental point is this - a shared culture is a key to our national identity and we must share some ethical substrate, some foundation built on values in order for our deepest freedoms and things we hold dearest (promise-keeping, the rule of law, respect for the individual, privacy rights , property rights etc) to be protected and strengthened.
This has little to do with religion, despite what the true right-winger might think, because the major world religions share core values concerning respect for the individual and their freedom and dignity as created by God. For example, the Islam practised by Al Qaeda has as much resemblance to what the Qur’an teaches as drone strikes and Guantanamo Bay has to the Bible. Amazing to relate, but the two have absolutely nothing to do with each other and even the one verse of the Qur’an which speaks of ‘women being inferior to men’ only says that in one interpretation of the Aramaic (you can look it up!).
The real debate is about ethics - as it often is. Surprise to say it, but if Doctors, Nurses, Teachers, Policemen and women and even politicians swung the debate on to ethics, and unmuzzled themselves from the fearful silence of political correctness, then we might make progress here. And the rest of us - I guess we need the courage to confront immoral and abusive behaviour wherever and whenever it is facing us.
NB Figures quoted here are form PlanUK and their contribution to an excellent discussion on this issue on the Jeremy Vine Show, Radio 2, Thursday, July 3rd 2014Add a comment