Female Genital Mutilation should not be singled out as a cultural issue, according to the director of anti-FGM charity Daughters of Eve.
Daughters of Eve director Nimco Ali said the practice needed to be understood in the wider context of patriarchal oppression against women, and added that the perpetrators were often victims themselves.
Her comments come as the first woman to be charged under the 2003 FGM Act will be sentenced today for cutting her own daughter.
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Speaking to talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer, Ms Ali, who is herself a survivor, said: “Of course we need to protect girls specifically within those communities with extra protection mechanisms, which of course means racial profiling because if you’re Somali you’re going to be at more risk of FGM than if you were blonde.
“But I don’t want to single out FGM as a cultural issue, it’s not a cultural issue because in a sense it doesn’t happen because you’re from those countries, it happens because women are oppressed.”
FGM defendent is 'survivor and victim'
Ms Ali said the conviction of the 37-year-old Ugandan woman was an important step forward, but highlighted the fact that the woman herself was a victim of FGM.
She said the government should be working more directly with FGM survivors to ensure they do not carry the practice on themselves.
“This woman has committed a crime and it’s brilliant we have a conviction, but we also need to understand that she is a survivor and a victim and she must be supported in prison,” Ms Ali said.
“There’s no point locking her up and hoping she will change her mind.”