In the twentieth century female genital mutilation was a matter rarely discussed in polite Western society. Its immutable centrality in various traditional communities, even nations, was barely acknowledged in the more modern ‘developed’ world, where the very large majority of people had no idea that FGM is a fact of life for others, even sometimes a few others amongst their own compatriots.
The onset of the twenty-first century, however, has seen things change. FGM has started to be recognised as an issue in most cities in the Western world. People in Britain, mainland Europe, North America and, for instance, Australia have begun to ask how it is that such a bewildering and disturbing ‘custom’ can have become a feature of their own communities and society.
Two factors in particular stand out as partial answers to this question.