"Ablation is a type of gender violence in disguise"

  • Female genital mutilation is not considered gender violence in Spain, so prosecutor Flor de Torres says an "important legislative reform" is needed

Female genital mutilation, the "invisible crime" as prosecutor Flor de Torres describes it, is not considered gender violence in Spain, at least in State legislation. "In this sense, the law is completely obsolete," she says. However, the Istanbul Agreement (2011), to which Spain subscribed, does recognise ablation as violence against women, and so does Andalusian law 7/2018, so De Torres says an "important legislative reform" is needed for it to be recognised nationwide as what it is.

There are plenty of arguments to support a change in the law. "Ablation reinforces the masculine role and hides a form of subjection of women, as well as violating human rights in terms of health and being a genuine form of torture," says Dr Carmen Agüera, co-director of the protocol created in Malaga to detect and prevent FGM.

"They destroy any possibility of women having a healthy sexual life. It is a thousand-year-old cultural practice which disguises a type of gender violence."

Dr Agüera says women who have undergone FGM believe it has improved them and gives them a special role in their community. "They see it as a form of maturity, of being eligible for marriage and economic security. We make them see that it is an attack on their body, but they don't understand that and even justify it because they have always been told that female genitals are dirty and need to be removed. We have to be careful about how we tell them that it denigrates women and that their wishes are not taken into account," she says.