Letter: Cruel culture

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The Independent Online
Raymond Whitaker's view that stopping practices Westerners consider abhorrent, such as female circumcision, "takes patience and cultural sensitivity" is as good as saying that since the Poles have practised pogroms for centuries we really shouldn't interfere ("Afghan conundrum", 13 October).

It is only recently that countries besides Canada and Sweden have accepted women threatened with female genital mutilation as political refugees.

When more than half the population of a country is treated as beasts of burden, forced to either stay indoors or shroud themselves outdoors and precluded from any activity, be it employment or schooling, that would give them some form of self-determination, this constitutes mass political persecution. Mr Whitaker calls it cultural. It is political.

Judith M Steiner

London N6