Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Voltaire... 21 Century style

One of the many interesting things about volunteering on the frontline with the team at FORWARD is when we have to deal with email queries. I've posted before about how diverse these can be - everything from women seeking help, boyfriends talking about their girlfriends, women from as far afield as Australia asking about what to do....

And statements like this one:

"It is an absolute disgrace your organisation encourages
illegal immigration. Many women come to this country illegally, work as
prostitutes and claim the freedom to remain here due to being
"trafficked". This is simply illegal immigration and migration groups
across the country aim to put an end to your very sexist activities. Men
have been genitally mutilated for thousands of years. Why not support an
end to this practice. It is outrageous your organisation has been
registered as a charity. We will put an end to your women-only pursuits."

My response is here:

Dear Matthew

Thank you for taking the time to write. You've clearly engaged with some of the tricky issues around the complexities of immigration and our work.

We do believe in bodily integrity for all, but in this instance, feel that campaigning against male circumcision is best left to those organisations set up to cope with exactly that. You may want to look at some of their websites.

Part of the reason that so many people want to be in the UK is because of its record of human rights, free speech and tolerance, therefore we're happy to have had this dialogue with you as we believe passionately in these things.

As Voltaire famously said: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend ... your right to say it."

Perhaps my response was slightly misguided. It certainly doesn't allow me to vent my spleen as much as I'd like. And those among you who know their Voltaire will notice that I deliberately excluded the words "I'll defend to the death your right to say it" - no point in tempting fate!

I wonder if any of the organisations set up for male circumcision ever come across this sort of aggression? That is a genuine question - perhaps because so many discussions in the Twittersphere seem to equate female and male GM/C - I wondered if all the issues it raises are transferable?

Anyway - if anyone has any other ideas for responses, do please let me know - sadly this is a mildly aggressive email, compared with some that we receive....interestingly, Matthew did include his email address and his London (Chiswick?) based phone number. I've not been bold enough to call him up though!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Mrs Goundo's Daughter

A screening last night, of the critically acclaimed film of "Mrs Goundo's Daughter" which seemed to outline so many of the current issues facing women. Some of the skill of the film was to get across the complexity of the forces around this issue - religion, misinformation, cultural prominence, patriarchal influence, the role of women in owning it themselves as a tradition.

Even more interesting was the juxtaposition of the life of Mrs Goundo, who lives in Dallas, Texas and the life she left behind her, in rural Mali.

A short post today, as I muse on whether to publish this photograph or not?

I was left after the screening last night, wondering if we had captured people's hearts, attention, minds - and how in fact to do that? Or whether they were simply shocked and felt that this is too big an issue to deal with? Too far away? Perhaps.

Oh - publish and be damned. If girls have to go through it, the least we can do is pay witness....

Photo: Robert Skinner

Thursday, 3 December 2009