My good friend Efua Dorkenoo, OBE, Advocacy Director of the FGM Programme in Equality Now’s London office emailed the following transcript of FGM as a topic of concern in Parliament.
“Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): I want to speak about an issue that affects a growing number of women and girls right across our country—female genital mutilation. It is the third time that I have raised the issue in the Chamber over the last year, and it has been raised by Members in both Houses in recent weeks, with a thoughtful debate taking place in the other place on 30 June.
FGM is not a religious issue; nor is it restricted to one ethnic group. It is a cultural practice prevalent in Africa, the middle east and parts of the far east. But behind the acronym FGM is a crime—a brutal crime perpetrated against those who are least able to protect themselves: little girls and young women.
FGM is the full or partial removal of, or injury to, the external female genitalia for non-therapeutic reasons, which means that there is no beneficial medical basis for the practice. In every case, the health of the girl or woman is damaged, often irreparably. What is most shocking of all is that a great many of these criminal acts are perpetrated against girls aged 10 and under, right down to infants. It is “the unkindest cut of all”, as FGM is carried out in the full knowledge of those who are supposed to protect their children—their families.
FGM causes all kinds of severe problems for girls and women’s sexual and reproductive health and general well-being throughout their lives. The Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development, FORWARD, estimated that around 66,000 women and girls in England and Wales have already been subject to FGM and that well over 22,000 should be considered as “at risk”. In some areas of London, about 5% of women giving birth present with signs of FGM. Those grim figures are based on the 2001 census. Given migration patterns over the last decade, these figures are likely to be much higher today.
In a recent article in _The Guardian_, Hugh Muir stated that some 6,000 girls in London were taken abroad and subjected to genital mutilation. Head teachers have described to me happy and outgoing young girls who have returned from their summer holidays withdrawn and distressed. I struggle to understand why the systematic and brutal wounding of young girls is not considered a national scandal. I know that right hon. and hon. Members would not tolerate a situation in which little British girls were taken abroad and returned missing their fingers. Likewise, we should not tolerate FGM. It is a child protection issue. FGM in the UK is child abuse; it is that simple—yet FGM continues to grow, largely unchallenged, in British society.
Since 2008, there have been more than 100 Met investigations into cases of FGM, but despite that, and even though FGM has been illegal since 1985, there have been no convictions to date. France has made more than 100 successful prosecutions. Ms Efua Dorkenoo, a leading expert in the field, believes that we must make it clear to communities where FGM is prevalent that the Government, police and courts take this issue very seriously and that it is completely unacceptable. Prosecutions would make that clear. We need to understand the barriers to prosecution. Have Ministers discussed with their counterparts in France how that country’s successful prosecutions were secured?
Prevention is even more important. Are we focusing on children aged under 10? Are Departments such as Health, Education and the Home Office working together to make the existing framework of child protection even more effective? Are we urgently addressing the need to update the evidence base on FGM? Figures that are now more than 10 years old suggest that the practice affects more women in the number of new cases than ovarian or cervical cancers—yet female genital mutilation can be eliminated, and I would like to see it given the emphasis it deserves.”