It is very difficult for people in one culture to understand the practices that occur in another which seem completely alien.
In many cases, it is simpler to not discuss these vast differences at all in the hope of finding some common ground in our increasingly multicultural society.
But sometimes the practices which occur cannot be ignored, and no matter how taboo a subject seems to be there are occasions when what we know to be right must override cultural traditions and sensibilities.
So it is with the practice of female genital mutilation, which occurs in largely African countries but which health professionals in Bradford are seeing evidence of more and more frequently.
Those people from the countries which do carry out this mutilation might well believe it is part of their culture. But it is putting the lives of young women at risk – especially when the come to have babies – and the time has come to speak out about it.
It is heartening that the police, GPs, midwives and school nurses are coming together in Bradford to form a task-force to bust the taboo of speaking out about this practice. Training will be given so that professionals can sensitively ask the right questions about the mutilation and take the appropriate action – both for the safety of the young women who undergo the practice and, where necessary, so the police can investigate.
The police quite rightly view this as a form of domestic abuse. The mutilation of young women – some of them just children – cannot be allowed to be a shadowy secret any longer, and only by people speaking out – and not being afraid to ask tough questions – will it be stamped out.