April 23rd, 2013
Illegal since 1985, but today 30,000 girls in the UK are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation and there hasn’t been a single prosecution.
Female Genital Mutilation has, in the last few weeks, become a much more visible in the public conscious. Two weeks ago it featured in an episode of Causality and last week The Sunday Times featured an article on anti-FGM campaigner, Nimko Ali, who has received death threats for speak out against the practice. The attention of thousands of viewers and readers has been drawn to this horrifying, but often hidden issue and the fact that it is being carried out, illegally, here in the UK.
Practiced in at least 28 countries around the world, predominantly in Africa, FGM is defined by the WHO as ‘all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons’. In most cases it is carried out between infancy and the age of fifteen. FGM is performed for a number of reasons, which in 1983 during a debate on the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Bill, Baroness Cox cited as including ‘beliefs that circumcision is desirable because it is hygienic, because it prevents promiscuity, because it enhances the desirability and value of women, because it is in keeping with age-old tradition and because it symbolises a girl’s transition to adulthood. And sometimes, especially in Muslim communities, it may be carried out in the sincere but erroneous belief that it is demanded by Islamic faith.’ In fact FGM causes many health problems including haemorrhage, infection, the development of abscesses, scar tissue and cysts, problems with urination and menstruation, excruciating pain during sexual intercourse and child birth, as well as fertility problems and sometimes even death. In addition to these physical issues, FGM often results in trauma and psychological problems. An estimated 120 million women worldwide are victims of FGM.
In 1983 Baroness Cox supported the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Bill, yesterday she was, once again speaking in the house of Lords on this terrible issue. She pointed out that ‘…in 1983 I supported a Bill outlawing female genital mutilation in this country, which was strengthened by further legislation in 2003, but that according to research currently as many as 65,000 women living in this country have suffered FGM. It is feared that some may have undergone the procedure here and others sent abroad for the practice, but there has not been a single prosecution. Therefore, what effective provisions are being undertaken urgently to protect the estimated 30,000 girls currently at risk in this country?’
She was joined by five other peers in expressing concern, in a debate which was well received by the house. Issues raised included concerns over the misconduct of doctors performing the procedure illegally, funding for awareness and means of prevention and the effect of DFID anti-FGM education abroad on communities in the UK.
Lord Holbeach responded that:
‘It is a hearts and minds issue, so we have to influence these communities and encourage them to recognise that there is no religious or medical basis for this abuse of young people and it should stop… the only way we can achieve progress is by using all the levers available to us: government departments; communities; and, through DFID, the overseas cultural base of this practice.’
In order for this practice to end the British government must be more proactive in educating communities and prosecuting offences.
Want to know what you can do?
These charities deal specifically with the issue of FGM, why not get in touch?
To read to full debate please visit: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldhansrd/text/130422-0001.htm#1304224000297
An article from The Evening Standard is available here: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/female-mutilation-law-must-be-properly-enforced-says-minister-8584184.html
More information on FGM is available from the WHO:http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/
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