Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 September 2016
News of the possible banning of the secretary general of the Sierra Leone National Sowei Council (NSC) – Madam Kharday Zorokong from entering the UK has been greeted with consternation and shock by civil libertarians. (Photo: A woman’s face mutilated by plastic surgeon, yet this inhumane practice has not been banned say critics).
The decision to try to prevent Mrs Zorokong from entering the UK is regarded by many Sierra Leoneans as a gross violation of human rights, as she has not committed any crime in the UK nor in Sierra Leone.
Mrs Zorokong who was last week taking part in a UN conference in Geneva, discussing issues regarding the rights of the child – including female circumcision, has expressly said that she does not support nor believe in the circumcision of children under the age of 18 years.
The right of African women over 18 years to choose what they do with and to their body parts, just like their western counterparts, is one that is being hotly debated among feminists and ordinary African women across the continent.
African advocates of adult female circumcision say that thousands of women in the West are paying for the mutilation of their body parts – with serious health consequences in many cases, but that western governments are turning a blind eye on this barbarity on grounds of civil liberty.
Those campaigning for the prevention of Mrs Zorokong from entering the UK say that the order is necessary, so as to prevent her from the possibility of practicing in the UK.
A judge in a court in London told London police that he did not have authority to ban ‘high-profile’ woman from entering the UK. But London police are now asking the Home Secretary to ban Zorokong, despite the courts refusing to uphold an application for entry refusal.
Many Sierra Leoneans are condemning the banning of Zorokong as racist.
They say that white supremacists advocating for the annihilation of black people in Europe are being granted visa to enter the UK, on grounds of civil liberty, despite strong campaigning against such decision by anti-racist groups. (Photo: A white woman disfigured by a plastic surgeon).
“Those condemning female circumcision can be better educated by listening to and engaging with those they are condemning, rather than denying them the right to speak and be heard,” a Londoner told the Sierra Leone Telegraph.
“A British TV documentary programme I saw a few weeks ago showed white British women whose vaginas have been mutilated with terrible consequences by surgeons in private clinics in the UK, yet neither the British government nor so called anti-FGM groups are calling for a ban, is it because these women are white? Where is the equality here?”
The is how the story was covered by the UK Guardian Newspaper:
Police urge home secretary to ban FGM practitioner from entering UK
Scotland Yard is urging the home secretary, Amber Rudd, to intervene in the case of woman from Sierra Leone who carries out female genital mutilation and is said to be seeking entry into the UK.
The Metropolitan police applied to the high court for a female genital mutilation protection order and a further order to prevent the woman from entering the UK.
Mr Justice Holman, however, sitting in London, said the question of whether the woman could enter the country was a matter for the secretary of state, not the court.
The woman, who was not named in court, is understood to be Kharday Zorokong, who was part of a Sierra Leonean delegation that included the minister for gender, Dr Sylvia Blyden, to the 73rd session of the UN committee on the rights of the child in Geneva last week.
Zorokong performs FGM, but is opposed to operations on children under 18. Campaigners feared that she would come to the UK as part of Blyden’s delegation after the meeting in Geneva.
Zimran Samuel, appearing for the police, said a campaigner in her 40s who was also an FGM survivor had asked officers to take action to ban the practitioner.
Samuel did not name the cutter but said she had a “high-profile status” as the head of a council of practitioners in her community. Because of her status, people in the UK would want to use her services, even although it is illegal here, he said.
Samuel later said that he was concerned that there was a loophole in the law set up to protect women and girls against FGM, which allows for the protection of named individuals, but did not provide protection in a case such as this. He told the judge that a request to the home secretary to be stop Zorokong from entering the UK was in motion.
The judge said he found FGM “abhorrent and a terrible scourge on women”, but “the right thing is to try to get the secretary of state not to let this woman in”.
After the judge declined to make any orders, the Met said in a statement: “The MPS is now considering what other options are available to prevent the entry into the UK of a person who may wish to carry out FGM.”
DS Wendy Morgan, from the Met’s sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command, said: “FGM is illegal and constitutes child abuse. A lot of work has been done to raise awareness over the last few years of this horrific practice, highlighting the short- and long-term health risks and the absence of any religious teaching that supports it. However, we are not complacent and more still needs to be done.
“The Met spends time highlighting the support available to those who may be at risk. When victims come to us with concerns over the risks they face, no matter what stage they are at in their life, the Met takes take these concerns very seriously.
“Police have a responsibility to act to protect vulnerable people and prevent people, especially the vulnerable, from becoming victims of crime. The Met will always to seek to follow the law to carry out this responsibility.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “An individual can be excluded on the grounds that their presence is ‘not conducive to the public good’ if it is reasonable, consistent and proportionate based on the evidence available.”
Before the Ebola outbreak forced a temporary ban on the practice, it was estimated that 88% of Sierra Leonean girls were cut, the seventh highest rate of the 28 countries in which FGM is practised.
FGM is not illegal in Sierra Leone, but ministers have proposed outlawing the practice among under-18s.
Nimko Ali, an anti-FGM campaigner and founder of Daughters of Eve, said she welcomed the judge’s comment and was hopeful that Rudd would take action. She said that practitioners in Sierra Leone had a powerful role and political influence in the country.
Ali said: “I’m hopeful that this will be successful. The symbolic nature of the judge saying: ‘I haven’t got the power but you should explore other areas’ is very welcome. The sense of impunity with which this woman can sit on the UN and say that FGM is an act of consent. If she were to visit the UK it would be a propaganda mission.”
Anti-FGM campaigners from Sierra Leone have condemned Zorokong’s appearance before the UN. At the meeting, Blyden spoke about protecting under-18s from FGM, but insisted that adult women should be allowed to “do what she wants to her body”, ignoring the pressure on women to undergo mutilation.
Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff, part of the Not In My Name coalition with Equality Now, said it was inappropriate that Zorokong was present at the UN last week.
The first ever recorded figures for FGM, reported in July, showed that between April 2015 and March 2016 there were 5,702 new cases among women in England. Most of the women and girls were born in Africa and underwent the procedure there, but at least 18 were subjected to FGM in the UK.