The Book of Mormon’s lesson in genital genocide

Female genital mutilation needs full-throated protest and some people possibly being rather offended

Share

When The Book of Mormon, the acerbic, wilfully offensive, sharply funny musical, hit London’s West End this month, the reviews divided into two camps.

Firstly, gleeful folk like myself who honked the whole way through two hours of unpalatable truths about Africa – female genital mutilation, infant rape, the Aids epidemic, blood-drinking warlords, and the glib, toothsome American visitors who advise prayer as the answer. Then there were critics who called the show “puerile”.

Now, while I accept that a Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez musical is not to everyone’s tastes, the word “puerile” troubled me. Puerile means “silly, childish, trivial”; but the subject matter that this show is hammering home to audiences – taking our money and punching us in the face with catchy songs about clitoris removal – is far from throwaway.

One of the show’s opening numbers, “Hasa Diga Eebowai”, is a full-throttle, all-singing, dancing, tribal-chanting extravaganza, melding the deft touch of South Park’s “Shut Your f***ing face Uncle F****er” mixed with “Springtime for Hitler” from The Producers, all set to a Disney Lion King/Bobby McFerrin style cod-African beat. It is gloriously offensive and frank about female circumcision in Uganda. The same bleak practice is happening in another 22 countries – and, crucially, right here, to British girls, during “cutting parties”, or summer holiday trips to see relatives.

“All the young girls here get circumcised! Their clits get cut right off! Dayyyyyo!!” the cast sings. The audience gasps, then giggles. By the interval, with no prior plans to be, we the audience are fully informed about this “cultural problem” of genital mutilation. We’re rooting for the female characters to retain the basic female right to own labia and a clitoris and to have sexual feelings. So, thank you, Trey, Matt and Robert – let me welcome you into the sisterhood. I’ll fit you for dungarees and a Best of Joan Armatrading CD in a moment. In four weeks working out of the Prince of Wales theatre, you’ve done more to raise awareness in Britain about the grim, widespread practice of “FGM” than our own media, Government and law enforcers have done in three decades.

By rough estimates, there are 20,000 girls at risk of FGM in Britain and 66,000 coping with the botched consequences. There has never been a prosecution, either of a mother taking her child out of the country, or a cutter travelling into Britain. I’ve read cases about little girls in Stratford – home of Olympic hope – being whisked off to Mogadishu. Or of the Somali community in Glasgow where a three-year-old girl and a small baby were sabotaged with scissors.I don’t think polite, concerned mumblings about FGM wholly prepare anyone for the fact that in the majority of cases, after these botch jobs, the whole lot is gone. Here, we have women with missing sex parts.

FGM is not performed for religious reasons, but more as a cultural tradition which says: “Look at my daughter: her vagina is stitched up so she’s a virgin and she has no way of having sexual pleasure. She’ll be a brilliant wife.” I’ve seen footage of an African father talking openly about how he is swapping the vagina for a big dowry. A vagina for some cows and land and beer. In Britain, there is a hazier sense of why FGM is happening: it’s not for God; it’s not for cows; it’s more “just what people do”. And how I wish they didn’t.

Mutilation is going unchecked in Britain for a mesh of reasons which only big, bolshie protests like “Hasa Diga Eebowai” can begin to tackle. It needs full-throated protest and some people possibly being offended. But this is a problem about vaginas – and that’s enough to make many men irate to find me filling this page with it. And obviously at this point I’ll attract a man shouting “Jewish boys get circumcised, too, why don’t you care about them?”, because we are still at a point with women’s rights where all sadness about centuries of ingrained female denigration must be met with a man hoping to upend protest by claiming he is more wronged.

Also problematic is the fact that FGM here affects mainly young British African girls of Muslim heritage. In Britain, we are at a sticky point with feminism, where large numbers of women have spent four or five decades being permitted education, the right to work and use contraception, and now believe feminism isn’t needed. No more rights needed here, thank you! “I’m not one of those feminists,” young British women bleat, as nearby, young girls are being whisked off to sunny Mogadishu or being hacked at in a back room in Stratford. This odd idea that “I have my rights, to hell with women globally” shames us. “I have my rights, but I don’t want to say anything remotely culturally insensitive” is a far graver problem still.

And why do the Metropolitan Police have no real evidence of FGM being performed in the UK, but admit that anecdotally it is happening? Border controls must see girls limping through Heathrow in dire need of antibiotics. Don’t teachers notice when girls can’t do PE? And what about midwives, health workers, ambulance drivers, beauty therapists, gynaecologists and all those private fertility clinics in Harley Street? No evidence? No whistleblowing? Surely someone is noticing this brutality.

No, the only people shouting about FGM in Britain right now are those guys who wrote South Park. The Book of Mormon may be hilarious, vile, obnoxious, joyous, profane and shocking, but it’s message is certainly not “puerile”.

Twitter: @gracedent

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Telecoms Engineer - Telecoms Admin - £35,000 - 5 month FTC

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 5 month Fixed Term Contract - Telecommunicati...

Norwegian Speaking Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 per annum + competitive OTE: SThree: Progressive in Manchester is seeki...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Telecoms Engineer - Telecoms Administrator - London - £26,000

£26000 per annum + 25 days holiday & further benefits: Ashdown Group: Telecomm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Prime Minister’s Questions: Yah Miliband versus Boo Cameron

John Rentoul
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella  

Zoella is a great role model - she changed my life

Vicky Chandler
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London