How do we differentiate between cultural tradition and what is effectively torture?


FGM (female genital mutilation) falls within the definition of abuse under international law i.e. physical,  psychological, emotional, or sexual where the person could not have consented or were pressurised into consenting. It aims to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity by reducing the woman’s libido in an effort to resist extramarital sexual acts. Traditionally girls who are cut increase their marriage prospects. FGM is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. Cutting is considered a  cultural ‘rite of passage’ to initiate girls into womanhood and is accompanied by communal celebration with gifts bestowed. The procedure is done without anaesthetic, often performed by traditional circumcisers or ‘cutters’ who do not have any medical training. In some countries it may be done by a medical professional in the belief that the procedure is then safer.

  • The procedure is cultural and not part of any religious tradition
  • There are no health benefits and serious complications often arise
  • It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.

FGM  is found in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and within communities from countries in which FGM is common. Girls are at risk of being returned to their home countries for FGM especially during holiday periods to allow for healing to take place.  It is  is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15, commonly before puberty begins. It is estimated that between 50 and 60% remain unaware that they have been subjected to the procedure if carried out in infancy or early childhood due to trauma memory being suppressed.

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“Suffer the little children to come unto Me”


Paedophile priests, teachers at the Anonio Provolo Institute for the deaf   in Italy and Argentina  designed  ‘special secret signs’ to initiate sexual abuse of boys, as young as 11 years old. The signs were designed to remain incomprehensible  to those who could understand sign language ensuring secrecy was maintained.The priests had no fear of being caught as  the children were deaf and mute and unable to call for help. Noone could hear the screams of those being abused. Guiseppe, abused for seven years from the age of 11 described how he could not at first understand the meaning of the signs  ‘Then one day it became very clear when one of the priests made the secret sign for fellatio when we were alone, which was followed by him pushing his erect penis into my mouth.’   Priests would make one of the signs to indicate that a boy was taken to appointed rooms under the guise of ‘time out’ or to rest. ‘Sometimes you would see priests coming into the dormitory at night, or you would see friends with tears rolling down their faces and you knew exactly what had just happened. You didn’t need to hear to know.’  Attempts by children to alert parents by writing letters failed because mail had to be given to the abusers making it possible to intercept the letters.



DON’T LOOK THE OTHER WAY – Listen to their stories


There is a danger that we become desensitised to the daily, horrific accounts of child sexual abuse, particularly those perpetrated by the clergy.  If we are ever to take appropriate action to defend children it is essential that we understand the level of depravity. This blog is offered in an attempt to give a voice to the individuals who have shown such courage in coming forward to tell their stories in order that others will not have to endure the same experiences.  One of the most harmful aspects of childhood sexual abuse is of not being heard or of not being believed. The least we can now do is to listen to them.

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro alleged on CBS  that the Vatican knew about a cover-up involving sex abuse allegations against priests. Priests would go, bishops would go and lie to parishioners, lie to law enforcement, lie to the public but then document all of the abuse in secret archives that they would share oftentimes with the Vatican.”  Bringing the  perpetrators to justice is paramount but this is dependent upon the catholic church refraining from acting as a feudal monarchy which believes itself to hold a moral ascendency beholden only to its own law. Continue reading

‘ME TOO’ ?


The legal definition of sexual harassment is ‘bullying or coercion of a sexual nature and the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favours’. This normally occurs between two adults, implying an element of choice by the perpetrator and the one being harassed e.g. a choice to move away, end all contact etc. The more serious ‘sexual assault‘  is an act in which a person ‘sexually touches another person without that person’s consent, or coerces or physically forces a person to engage in a sexual act against their will’. Today as women all over the world stand together to oppose male oppression in any form, this is a moment to pause in order to gain perspective regarding the sexual abuse of minors where no consent is possible. Continue reading


May 15th  2018 will see the culmination of the weekly demonstrations by thousands of of Palestinians which began on March 30th in commemoration of the loss of their homeland following the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14th 1948. Human rights groups have condemned Israel for disproportionate use of deadly force. Demonstrators burned tyres to create a smoke screen to allow them to reach the fence, they  have been met with live ammunition resulting in the death of at least 45 Palestinians, there have been no Israeli deaths. Continue reading

CANADA, CHILD ABUSE – Francis refuses invitation to apologise

In 2015 Canada’s  5 year Truth and Reconciliation Commission delivered a scathing rebuke to the catholic church along with Protestant denominations entrusted with the care and education of  thousands of indigenous children for more than a century. The Canadian government formally apologised ten years ago for the colonial ‘assimilation policy’ later described as  ‘cultural genocide’ by the  government Commission.  For decades children were forcibly removed from their parents and placed in Indian residential schools mainly under the care and control of the catholic church. Under a regime designed to strip them of every vestige of their  cultural heritage they were subjected to continuous and barbaric  sexual, physical, mental and emotional abuse. Children were stripped of native artifacts and clothing and forced to wear western dress, their hair was cut short and they were not allowed to speak their native language. Continue reading


So many people die annually from gunfire in the US that the death toll between 1968 and 2011 eclipses all wars ever fought by the country.

According to research by Politifact, there were about 1.4 million firearm deaths in that period, compared with 1.2 million US deaths in every conflict from the War of Independence to Iraq. The US spends more than a trillion dollars per year defending itself against terrorism, which kills a tiny fraction of the number of people killed by ordinary gun crime.

  • On average there is more than 1 mass shooting per day in America.
  •  America has 4.4% of the world population but owns almost half of the civilian owned guns around the world.
  • In 2012, 64% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides.
  • Before the deadly shooting at  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February there had already been 18 incidents at schools involving gun shots in 2018

The particular horror of the  Sandy Hook shooting shocked the world, it was assumed that the massacre of 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 years old would initiate stronger gun control. It did not. The National Rifle Association boasted that  its membership surged to around five million in the aftermath. There have been more than 1,500 mass shootings since Sandy Hook, at least 239 were school shootings In which 438 people were shot, 138 being killed. Researchers and gun control advocates say that since 2013, they have logged school shootings at a rate of about one a week. Katherine W. Schweit, a former senior F.B.I. official and the co-author of a study of 160 active shooting incidents in the United States said, “We have absolutely become numb to these kinds of shootings, and I think that will continue.” Continue reading

Catholic Christian Brothers and Sexual Abuse

Hearing impairment is by its very nature not only disabling but isolating as communication is compromised. Prior to advances in technology many profoundly deaf children were also mute, unable to speak, making them among the most vulnerable in society. The idea that anyone might take advantage of this disability is repugnant however historical child abuse in its many forms has been perpetrated by a minority of staff in residential care settings. This  is increasingly being revealed as an international problem, a sad commentary on society as a whole.

See http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2011/10/113_96847.html

Saint Josephs School for the Deaf opened in Dublin Ireland in 1845, run by the Catholic Christian Brothers, a teaching Order known for its strict and sometimes harsh discipline. The school gained a reputation for a high standard of education and vocational skills training boys as cobblers and tailors as preparation for financial independence.

Language is the foundation of culture, historically used, knowingly or unknowingly as  a powerful tool of Continue reading

ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME – Sexual abuse of disabled children by priests

As Pope Francis’ continues to defend the Bishop of Chile, long identified as covering up abuse by a fellow priest who was later found guilty by the Vatican, we might remember the famous quote: “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men to remain silent”. The growing scandal of pedophile Catholic priests reveals the magnitude of institutionalised sexual abuse of children over decades, perhaps the greatest shock is the lengths to which the church hierarchy have gone to conceal and deny the abuse. Under the spotlight of the ‘Me Too’ movement, a pause to consider the survivors who do not have the privilege of a celebrity platform from which to speak…who did not in fact even have a voice to speak with…. those who were hearing impaired or mute.  In considering the depth of depravity of pedophile priests we need look no further than the Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Verono Italy and the filmed confession of Father Nicholas Corradi:

“I never screamed..I could not speak”   

Corradi worked in the Provolo Institute for deaf and mute children in Italy for many years and was one of several priests accused of sexual abuse by disabled children. When the church hierarchy failed to respond to their disclosures the children went public, naming their abusers. In 2012 (during the pontificate of Pope Benedict) The Congregation for the Defense of the Faith determined that Corradi had sexually abused deaf and mute children in Italy. The Vatican sanctioned four priests but Carradi went unpunished and relocated to Argentina where he  took up employment at the Argentine Antonio Provolo Institute for hearing impaired children. Continue reading


The world reels from the gutter language used by the President of the United States as he manages to insult  a quarter of the countries of the world, concerning his views on immigration policy.  His response to accusations of racism,  a thinly veiled excuse – ‘it’s not racism it’s a financial problem‘  reveals the billionaire businessman beneath the presidential facade. By comparison the dignified response of the people of Haiti and Africa to his derogatory description of their countries provides an example that he would do well to emulate.

As we spare a thought for the 65 million people currently displaced  by conflict, war and persecution, the latest report shows that while the richest nations ponder on possible ways to curb immigration, many of the worlds poorest nations are hosting  56% of the global refugee population.  An Amnesty International report for 2016 states that many of the world’s wealthiest nations “host the fewest and do the least”.

The United States has historically led the world in terms of resettlement, admitting 84,995 refugees in the fiscal year ending in September 2016. In 2017 President Trump cut the refugee quota by 50%, a policy currently being challenged in the Federal Court. In 2017 only 42,000 refugees were resettled in America; Canada in contrast  resettled 30,000 refugees in 2016.  Continue reading