There's no easy or nice way to introduce the topic of female genital mutilation (FGM).
It is a truly hideous, cruel practice and it's happening now in Britain to as many as 50 babies and girls every day on average.
Cases of FGM in Europe, the US and Australia have increased as more people from the African, Middle East and south Asian diasporas travel west. About half a million women and girls in Europe have been subjected to FGM and around 180,000 more girls are at risk annually, with perhaps more than 24,000 of them in Britain.
Just one little girl mutilated is infinitely too many. People don't like to think of such things. Mass barbarism on this scale is more than most of us can credit.
But make no mistake. While there's also legitimate cause to question non-medically required male circumcision, FGM is different. Both are human rights issues but FGM is rarely "just a nick." It often entails removal of the external female genitalia, usually in grossly unhygienic conditions, without pain relief.
Mortality rates for FGM are uncertain, with perhaps 10-30 per cent of victims dying from immediate or later obstetric impacts. It also permanently damages health and well-being - everything from post-traumatic conditions to kidney failure and obstetric fistula.
Small wonder that in practising countries, charitable refuges now exist where girls old enough to anticipate the often unannounced and secretive "procedure" flee to avoid the unspeakable pain, inflicted with their parents' consent by force, and the horrors which follow FGM.
So why ever does this barbaric practice occur?
The answer is patriarchy. While FGM has been connected at some level with religions and customs for hundreds of years, at base it is a way for men to control "their" women.
FGM mythology around female sexual organs and sexuality involves beliefs variously that if a male sexual partner, or a baby during birth, touches the clitoris, they will die and sometimes also that this organ will grow to become a "third leg" if not removed.
Then there's fear that teenage girls will become sexually rampant if their clitoris remains and is not removed and sewn up - a belief serving economic requirements for a good price for a "pure" bride whose tightened anatomy will also, it's said, enhance her husband's pleasure.
Mothers or grandmothers often arrange the mutilation but daughters are property passed very young from father to husband. Unmarried adult women, with or without FGM, are "unclean" in traditional communities and sometimes are forbidden even to collect water or prepare food. They may not survive.
This is a far cry from contemporary Western ideals of sexuality, marriage and individual rights but residual customs may persist, especially in isolated diaspora communities.
FGM rates globally are slowly diminishing, especially among younger and more educated women. Yet despite the landmark UN Declaration of December condemning FGM, children continue to be tortured because of "tradition," misplaced religious observance and economic patriarchy.
Britain can help stop this. We have one of the largest European FGM-vulnerable diasporas and legislation unequivocally forbidding female genital mutilation, whether in Britain or procured elsewhere by or for British residents and citizens.
But not a single person from the 100,000-plus in Britain who have probably been involved in inflicting FGM to British children has been prosecuted. Dedicated policing is almost non-existent.
But in late 2012 Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer announced he will spearhead legal action and various government bodies revisited their directives and guidelines on departmental websites.
And now the Prime Minister has appointed International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone to lead an international initiative, announced on International Women's Day, to make FGM history.
If Featherstone knows how to abolish FGM and has resources to achieve this, she must have full backing.
But inevitably there are concerns, not least because in 2011 the coalition government abolished the national FGM co-ordinator role which the previous administration had just established. Will they get it right this time?
We must watch and wait.
And while we're doing that there are issues to consider.
Let's stop agonising over current British FGM legislation and just use it. Other child abuse, honour killings, rape, breast ironing and domestic violence are similar policing challenges. Consider GBH charges, on the statute book since 1861, if it helps.
There has to be an absolute focus on potential and actual child victims. That means proper health care, education and realistic opportunities for future economic independence, as well as safeguarding.
Recognise that FGM's root cause is patriarchy which is still thriving in mainstream British society too.
Acknowledge that if we isolate diaspora communities they may adhere to traditional ways. To eradicate FGM globally we must validate the message that open societies, fostering good health, well-being and economic independence, don't and won't countenance - or need - such desperate measures.
Be vigilant against racialist overspill- avoid talk of FGM-linked deportation. Deportation can apply to all non-national serious criminals and some FGM perpetrators are British citizens. And most British Muslims, like followers of other religions and none, abhor it.
Understand that FGM will stop only when professionals on the ground know what to do. Teachers, medics, legal practitioners and the rest need proper training - not just website "guidance" - and the assurance they will be supported in testing circumstances. Currently, many are poorly informed and fear being hung out to dry if things get difficult.
This is a beginning, not an end.
Life doesn't stop in the absence of proper policy.
Thousands more British girls have been harmed since the FGM co-ordinator role, eventually established by the previous government, was abolished.
The new coalition initiative must make up rapidly for that awful loss of impetus.
And, finally, female genital mutilation is the ultimate in personal politics. Let's strengthen public pressure towards its eradication. One way to start is to sign the government e-petition number 35313 to stop FGM in Britain. More details on the campaign are available at www.nofgm.org.
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