HC Deb 26 January 1949 vol 460 cc907-8
22. Sir Basil Neven-Spence

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has any information regarding the increase or decrease in the Sudan in recent years of the custom of female circumcision.

The Minister of State (Mr. McNeil)

I regret that I have no precise information. I am assured, however, that the legislation passed in 1926 and the subsequent propaganda have checked this repulsive and harmful practice. Progress, however, in the face of such a long established tradition is regrettably, if necessarily, slow.

Sir B. Neven-Spence

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of the thousands of circumcisions that have taken place since the legislation was passed in 1945 have been under an approved Government process or a milder type of operation?

Mr. McNeil

My recollection is that there was not a governmentally approved process. It is true that one rather milder process was recommended, but I regret that I have no precise figures of those affected by this operation.

Mr. Wilson Harris

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the newly created Legislative Council is concerning itself in any way with the elimination of this revolting practice?

Mr. McNeil

Yes, Sir, I am quite sure that the existing Council is conducting effective propaganda, mainly by instruction in girls' schools, by health visitors and maternity visitors—and dealing with the superstitions held about this practice.

Dr. Segal

Has the right hon. Gentleman also consulted the opinion of the most expert anthropologists before deciding on any course of action?

Mr. McNeil

There was an expert committee set up before which several expert anthropologists gave evidence about the traditions and causes of this belief.

Mrs. Leah Manning

Is there any way in which my right hon. Friend can give voice to the abhorrence that is felt in this civilised country against this very obscene custom practised on young female children?

Mr. McNeil

The opinions of experts and people of humanitarian sympathies in this country have already been given some circulation in the Sudan. I have no doubt that this short discussion will be given publicity and will be helpful.

Sir B. Neven-Spence

As my information about the spread of this revolting practice differs from what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

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