Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Alex Salmond's wish is for a home rule option for Scotland -- and he'll get it (Guardian)

Martin Kettle warns that the now imminent date for the Scottish referendum leaves little time for the consideration of its impact on the rest of the UK.

2. If the benefit cap doesn't fit, don't wear it (Times) (£)

The limit of £26,000 is easy to understand but is largely symbolic, says David Aaronovitch. The trouble is, it's unfair on too many people.

3. Meddle with the market at your peril (Financial Times)

No other system, from Fabian socialism to Soviet-style communism, has met its people's needs, writes Alan Greenspan.

4. Hayek helped us to find capitalism's flaws (Financial Times)

We work more like a market than business does, write Occupy London.

5. In a sombre year Davos worries about greater equality (Independent)

Hamish McRae notes that on the difficulty of delivering equity, though, developed and emerging economies are alike.

6. Fear may well save the euro. Now for the politics of hope (Guardian)

We must recognise that stability of the eurozone is no substitute for the larger project it was designed to usher in, says Timothy Garton Ash.

7. Europe: rumours of its demise are exaggerated (Times) (£)

At Christmas catastrophe seemed inevitable, says Camilla Cavendish. Now, thanks to the two Marios, the outlook is far brighter.

8. Hester and Huhne are symbols of a country in moral freefall (Daily Telegraph)

Small wonder young people are becoming less honest, given the example they are set, writes Peter Oborne.

9. Human rights: Cameron's message to Europe (Guardian)

The European court of human rights is not all David Cameron has his sights on, says Francesca Klug.

10, The State of the Contest (Times) (£)

President Obama's address to Congress set the election agenda, says this leading article.

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Female genital mutilation is not just a women’s issue, it’s a human issue

A new play explores how two women react when their daughters' friend is subjected to FGM.

Alice Denny was born into a body that didn’t feel like hers. There is no one ‘right’ way to live and no one should have to hide who they really are.  For years, she accepted the guise before eventually making the transition she deserved.

“A life and body to finally match my mind,” she says softly, quoting one of her own poems to me. “I know, it’s silly,” she adds in a fluster, but Alice needn’t be so modest. In fact, she should be very proud.

We’re at The Joker, an offbeat bar in Brighton, and Alice explains how the realisation of her womanhood inspired her to take up a leading role in CUT, a community play highlighting the horrors of female genital mutilation (FGM), which premieres in Brighton next week.

“For anything to stop women from being women, I find so upsetting,” Alice tells me with a communicable heartbreak in her voice.

FGM involves the removal of a woman’s clitoris, inner-and-outer lips of the vagina, and the sewing or stapling together of the two sides of the vulva leaving only a small hole to pass urine and menstruate – depending on the variation. Typically, FGM is carried out with a razor blade on girls between the ages of four and 15, often without any anaesthetic.

This misguided practice, fed by some faux-rationale about raising girls properly, is most common among cultural and religious groups in Africa and the Middle East with the World Health Organisation estimating around 125 million cases across the globe. Many of these communities believe FGM will serve to limit a woman’s libido, discourage sexual promiscuity and strengthen the institute of marriage.

“It’s brutal and makes me almost ashamed to be a human being,” Alice states emphatically.

Of course, to take solace in the fact FGM is not as common in Britain, where it is illegal, is to cataclysmically miss the point. It shouldn’t happen anywhere or to anyone. As it is, an approximate 137,000 women in Britain are affected by FGM, but even that number could be more given the ‘hidden’ nature of the crime.

Daughters of some first-generation immigrants and asylum seekers can be at a particular risk, with these girls taken to their countries of origin against their will during the school holidays for the procedure, allowing them time to ‘heal’ before their return. In reality, the lasting effects both physical and psychological never cease completely.

It is a terrifying thought and one that the incisive CUT, written by Suchitra Chatterjee and Susi Mawell-Stewart, explores. The play chronicles the lives of two women, Brona and Kiva, neighbours forced to face up to the problem of FGM on their doorstep when a shared African friend of their daughters is about to be sent away to be mutilated. Parent of two Alice stars as Brona, while Norma Dixit portrays Kiva. 

So what does CUT hope to achieve?  “It’s about trying to break the conspiracy of silence surrounding this issue,” an impassioned Alice reveals.

The former psychiatric nurse continues: “FGM isn’t something that’s isolated to one place or one group of people. It’s a wider feminist issue, a human issue, which needs to be addressed collectively. The play is about raising awareness, a vehicle to say to women to make the world a better place for each other.

“Women matter, never mind culture, never mind traditions of people being subjugated. We matter and we can make our lives what we want them to be. I’ve made my life what I want it to be and I feel so happy about that.

“People who say ‘it’s nothing to do with us,’ of course it is. It’s brutalizing women. I would love people to say, ‘actually I do know something that’s going on and I will go to the police and they will listen to me.’ I want people to be energized and make it their business.”

Admittedly, CUT, directed by Rikki Tarascas, is not for the faint hearted and will no doubt leave the audience shocked in their seats. Then again, that’s the idea.

CUT will premiere at the BrightHelm Community Centre in Brighton on May 10 and features a pre-show event with speeches from, among others, Khadijah Kamara, an FGM survivor and Heather Knott, a former Soroptomist International UK committee member.