Monthly Archives: July 2013

Comment: As the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) releases a twenty year study into the practice of female genital mutilation and finds that 30 million girls are at risk of having their external genitalia forcibly removed in the next decade, isn’t it about time we cast off the shackles of cultural relativism?

The UNICEF report, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: a statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change, is the most comprehensive review ever undertaken into the tradition of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) and reveals that over 125 million women and girls alive today have already been subjected to the brutality and trauma of the practice.

While the report ultimately highlights a slow decline in the number of girls being subjected to this anguish, and reveals that girls and women consistently underestimate the number of boys and men who wish to see an end to FGM/C (in several countries, men now are more opposed to FGM/C than women) it also shows that even among those who wish to end the practice, social pressures exerted upon them are sufficient to ensure the bloodying of blankets continues with scant enquiry.

As defined by the World Health Organisation, female genital mutilation refers to ‘all procedures involving partial or full removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons’. In it’s most extreme form, FGM/C involves the sowing up of the vagina completely. The removal of the external  genitalia may be undertaken with sharp rocks, pieces of glass, scissors or blunted knives and razors. FGM/C is generally carried out without anaesthetic.   Read More

For a Scotsman, residing in Ireland who writes predominantly on topics of Scottish and Irish interest, it was only a matter of time before I sought to bring attention to two of our nations most notorious scoundrels. The names of Burke and Hare are now synonymous with a rare kind of unpleasantness, a wickedness that is at once repulsive and strangely charming. Bringing their exploits to light now however serves a dual purpose, acting as it does as a perfect segue into a hopelessly under-reported travesty.

Burke and Hare were Irish immigrants who arrived in Edinburgh in 1827, five years before the Anatomy Act of 1832 which legitimised the provision of cadavers to a medical profession that previously had relied on bodysnatching or the disinternment of Edinburgh’s deid to supply their demand. ‘Resurrectionists’, as they were so known, were opportunistic thieves who would steal under cover of darkness into graveyards in order to acquire ‘anatomical subjects’ for the doctors teaching at the Edinburgh Medical School.

William Burke and William Hare were more opportunistic than most. When they moved into Tanner’s Close in 1827, and took up residence in Margaret Laird’s lodging house, a sickly guest gave the men an idea they were to embrace with chilling enthusiasm. Read More

%d bloggers like this: