Join feminist writer, Mona Eltahawy, MP Naz Shah and novelist and lawyer, Hina Belitz, for a frank discussion of hymen obsessions, exploring why the control of female sexuality remains prevalent across cultures and what this means for the equality and well-being of women in the UK and worldwide.

Female Genital Mutilation – the practice of deliberate cutting, injuring or altering the female genitals – is illegal throughout Britain. Despite this, more than 20,000 girls a year remain at risk of experiencing this harmful and traumatic practice from within the UK. Meanwhile, mainstream private clinics are increasingly advertising surgery to repair the hymen, a purely aesthetic practice with no medical benefit, designed to suggest a woman’s virginity. These practices and beliefs attach a high moral value on the control of female sexuality, which, in its most extreme form, can even lead to honour killings.

This event, chaired by Professor of Criminology, Aisha K. Gill, will explore the historic and current issues surrounding the control of the female body and ask why contemporary culture continues to be so obsessed with the hymen.

About The Speakers

Hina Belitz

Hina Belitz is a renowned discrimination and employment lawyer. She is also the author of the powerful novel Set Me Free. Born in Pakistan to an Indian father and a mother of Iranian, Afghan and Indian descent, Belitz was brought up in Hampshire, where she was the only Asian person in her school.

Mona Eltahawy

Mona Eltahawy is an award-winning columnist and an international public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues and global feminism. She is the author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution. Her commentaries have appeared in several publications and she is a regular guest analyst on various television and radio shows.

Naz Shah

Naz Shah is the Member of Parliament for Bradford  West and has been a Member of the Home Affairs select committe e since 2015. Naz is also the Chair of APPG for Islamic finance, former Chair of APPG for Islamophobia & now Vice chair on the APPG for British Muslims, and APPG for Integration.

About The Chair

Aisha K. Gill

Dr Aisha K. Gill is Professor of Criminology at University of Roehampton. Her main areas of interest are health and criminal justice responses to violence against black, minority ethnic and refugee (BMER) women in the UK, Iraqi Kurdistan and India. Professor Gill is often in the news as a commentator on forced marriage, violence predicated on ‘honour’, and sexual violence in South Asian communities. In March 2016 the first special issue on ‘Violence’ that she co-edited for Feminist Review was published by Palgrave Macmillan.