The Evening Standard's letters page came up trumps last night with this cracker on the subject of female genital mutilation:
It will take more than £35 million from the UK to end Female Genital Mutilation. Thousands of poor women worldwide earn their living from carrying it out and ending it will involve creating new roles for them and huge change to their societies.
Leadership at the community level must be the driving forc, and this needs to be backed up by culturally appropriate health and education services. David Cameron would make a better contribution towards ending FGM if he commited to ensuring large companies do not dodge taxes and exploit poor countries.
Martin Drewery, Health Poverty Action.
Just read that second sentence again. Then imagine someone writing "Thousands of poor people worldwide earn their living robbing old ladies. Ending mugging will involve creating new roles for them and huge change to their societies". The logic is the same.
For a charity supposedly concerned with health, Health Poverty Action make no mention of the health effects of FGM - which can range from death to long term physical, psychological and sexual problems. As so often with charities, Health Poverty Action seems less concerned with setting out facts than with establishing a broader political agenda.
FGM has been around a long time, and is ingrained in some countries in Africa and the Middle East. That is unlikely to be an issue readily tackled by the British Prime Minister. Curiously Martin Drewery makes no mention of the historical British failures to address FGM in this country (something the Prime Minister could have done something about) but does instead raise the need for David Cameron to ensure large companies do not dodge taxes and exploit developing countries.
On one level, I agree. But how David Camerson can prevent a German based multi-national exploiting the tax system in Egypt is unclear. Indeed the problem in many developing nations is not simply that the multi-nationals pay little or no tax, it is that these nations ruling classes have never paid any taxes, and refuse to do so (See Owen Bennett Jones' classic book on Pakistan for an example of a country where no one has ever been convicted of tax evasion).
FGM continues because there are particular cultural (and, although less clearly) religious justifications that are made for it. I accept it is easier (sorry, more culturally appropriate) for Martin Drewery to talk about big companies not paying their taxes, than it is to address these cultural issues.
But what is easy, is not always correct. His letter reads like a very sharp spoof of a comedian mocking a left wing activist. It discredits the charity sector.