On Immigration, Photography and Female Genital Mutilation: Dilemmas for Youth Workers

Once again we are apologising for the lack of posts on the site. We have been prioritising support for the In Defence of Youth Work campaign – see http://indefenceofyouthwork.org.uk

Hopefully, however, we will get back into the swing of posting more regularly here. Ironically we might do so as the increasing threat to youth work in the UK means that the In Defence site will be preoccupied with resistance to cuts in jobs and services. This means that we might well shift some news and analysis of a broader nature to here.

To get us on the move again, find below a cocktail of connections:

Back at Xmas 2009 we reported on the dire situation facing mothers, children and young people at the Yarl’s Wood detention centre. In a victory for campaigners the family wing is to be closed. The new government will now have to square a claim that it will protect the welfare of children, whilst maintaining and probably tightening the country’s immigration laws.  As we have said before, if money can cross borders without interference, so should workers – a position that would land us in hot water in Arizona and beyond

Justin Wyllie has as usual two challenging pieces concerning young people on his Blog. The first concerns a young sixteen year old photographer being stopped from taking pictures of an armed forces parade, whilst the second accuses the Ministry of Justice of lying in its claim that restraint is an instrument of last resort in Secure Training Centres. In this regard the Guardian describes the  Prison Service manual on the use of restraint as ‘a brutal guide to punishing jailed youths’

Back in the mid-80’s I was involved in a heated debate with youth workers about whether there were any grounds for any of us  judging the practices of other cultures.  There was much talk about respect and diversity, which was both eye-opening and suffocating by turn. Inevitably race and gender were at the heart of differing stances. Within the argument I was charged with racism, because I refused to accept the cultural practice of ‘infibulation’. Perhaps high-mindedly I argued that humanity at its best had created universal values, human rights, which I wished to defend and extend in the teeth of any particular culture’s opposition. The evening ended in a high degree of tension. In one way or another the dilemmas surrounding the comparability or otherwise of cultures have never gone away, indeed perhaps have deepened. I am minded of this specific incident and forced to think afresh about the contemporary situation by the claim that British girls undergo horror of genital mutilation despite tough laws
This seems all the more relevant, given the overriding emphasis on child protection within the world of Children and Young People’s Services.


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