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Petition to end FGM in the UK

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Each year an estimated 24,000 girls in the UK are at risk of having to go through the horrors of FGM.

Earlier this week I read an article about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Indonesia, describing the unimaginably awful scene of a mass cutting ceremony.

It turned my stomach to read of girls as young as 5 months old having their genitalia deliberately cut.

It is estimated that 3 million girls every year are cut, with the highest incidences being in Africa, the Middle East and Indonesia.

That article was about FGM in far away lands, but what is also shocking – and sickening – is that it’s happening here in the UK, too.

We published a guest post last week from Plan UK about the worldwide horrors of FGM. It was a piece wich gave a really good introduction into what FGM is and why it occurs, and is well worth reading to get a good sense of the scale and seriousness of the problem.

FGM is illegal in the UK, and it is illegal to take any girl out of the country to for FGM to be performed on her.

However, despite laws criminalising this barbaric practice – laws which have been in place for 27 years – to date not one single conviction has been made.

This despite an estimated 24,000 girls being at risk of FGM annually  in the UK.

Despite their assertions that they are committed to stopping the practice, the coalition government actually abolished the only Whitehall post devoted to work preventing women and girls from the UK being subjected to it.

In France, where roughly the same number of children are said to be at risk, there have been over 100 convictions relating to the practice.

Worryingly though, there are reports of French children being sent to the UK to undergo cutting, in the knowlege that prosecution here is rare, and enforcement of anti-FGM laws lax.

Earlier this year a petition to get the government to stop FGM in the UK was rejected, apparently because of some of the wording used in the text.

Hilary Burrage, the author of the original petition has now set up a second petition, with suitably altered wording, which you can sign here.

And she has written about the discrepancy between the way some high profile child abuse cases are treated, in comparison to the action – or lack of action – being taken to end FGM in the UK.

FGM is child abuse, there are no two ways about it.

And we know it is happening right under our noses, so why have there been no convictions?

Hilary Burrage writes on her blog: ‘Procuring or perpetuating FGM in Britain, or on British children, carries a maximum (but not obligatory) penalty of 14 years in prison.

‘It is also legally obligatory to report even any suspicion that a child is at risk or has undergone FGM.

‘Yet still there have been no successful prosecutions at all concerning anything to do with FGM, anywhere in the UK.

‘Too difficult…’ say the authorities.’

Nimco Ali, from the charity Daughters of Eve says: “It’s a chicken and egg problem.

“There have been no convictions because no one takes it seriously as an issue, but no one takes it seriously as an issue precisely because there have been no convictions.

“If people knew more about it, it would be clamped down on, but they don’t, so no one is scared of the prospect of conviction.

“There needs to be a commitment by the police, social services and others that it’s high on their priorities, not just something that they pay lip service to.

“FGM is a safeguarding issue and needs to be treated as such, not passed back to communities affected by it.

“What other form of sexual abuse do we seek those affected and those committing it to address?

“Only when commitment is given to the subject and the Acts in place are actively enforced and FGM addressed as safeguarding will we get a conviction, but to have to seek a conviction in order to give force to the law in place is just nonsensical.”

Reassuringly, it seems that people in power are beginning to wake up to the problem in the UK.

Last week the Crown Prosecution Service published an action plan which they hope will bring about the first UK convictions for the crime.

Keir Starmer, director of public prosecutions, said: “It’s critical that everything possible is done to ensure we bring the people who commit these offences against young girls and women to justice and this action plan is a major step in the right direction.

“Everyone who can play a part in stopping female genital mutilation – from the doctor with a suspicion that an offence has been committed and the police officer investigating the initial complaint to the prosecutor taking a charging decision – needs to know what to do to improve detection rates, strengthen investigations and, for the part of the CPS, to start getting these offenders into court.

“I am determined that the CPS should play a key role in ensuring that the impunity with which these offenders have acted will end.”

And this week Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne announced the launch of a ‘declaration’ against FGM and £50,000 funding to support frontline agencies tackling the problem, as part of the government’s commitment to ending violence against women and girls.

MP Lynne Featherstone, who charged with tackling violence against women and girls overseas, said: “We must all play our part to support efforts to end the horrific practice of FGM.

“By putting FGM on the mainstream development agenda, I want to encourage others to step in with much-needed political and financial resources.”

The solution is not an easy or quick one.

Education in the at risk communities is vitally important, as is creating easy routes for reporting fears or incidences.

But so too is a more aggressive, proactive stance from the government to support the many charities who are working to end FGM in the UK.

The government should reinstate the role of national FGM co-ordinator and commit further funds toward the ending of this horrendous practice.

The £50, 000 already committed is a start, but not enough in light of the vast number of girls at risk.

The consequenses and health implications of FGM for the girls and women who have been subjected to it last a lifetime, and in some cases will ultimately lead to premature death.

Please add your voice to the demand to stop FGM in the UK and sign the petition by clicking here.

  1. Thank you so much for this, Naomi.

    I think you may also be interested in the response I have just received to my previous post on FGM: http://hilaryburrage.com/2012/11/28/the-uk-can-learn-from-france-on-fgm-prosecutions/

    There is a lot to learn, for us in the UK!

    Thank you again.

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