PM unveils £1.4m female genital mutilation prevention programme at UK Girl Summit

PM unveils £1.4m female genital mutilation prevention programme at UK Girl Summit

Prime minister David Cameron announced a £1.4m programme to prevent female genital mutilation and forced marriage Tuesday at the first ever UK Girl Summit co-hosted with UNICEF in London.

The summit was attended by international politicians and campaigners with the aim of mobilising domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation (FGM), and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) “within a generation”.

There has never been a single UK prosecution for the practice of FGM in the UK to date, even though it has been illegal since 1985 and the practice still widely exists.

Following a report released by Equality Now in 2013 that highlighted the problematic effects of FGM and forced marriage, Equality Now advocacy director Efua Dorkenoo has endeavoured to develop a coordinated “joined-up” approach to prevent and prosecute for the perpetration of FGM in the UK.

Dorkenoo said: “The laws and resources needed to stop this destructive practice are already in place, so there is no excuse for continuing to fail our girls. We hope that our work in the UK will provide a practical model, which can be implemented in other countries.”

Speaking at the UK Girl Summit, home secretary Theresa May said: “Over 100,000 women in the UK are living with the consequences and 60,000 are at risk of FGM. We must do more because one girl subjected to FGM, or forced to marry, is one too much.” (sic)

The NHS will be enrolled to work with girls affected by the practice of FGM, it was announced, and UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake urged health professionals, teachers and families to flag cases to “break the cycle”. Lake said: “While these are problems on a global scale, the solutions must be local, driven by communities, families and girls themselves to change mindsets and break the cycles that perpetuate FGM/C and child marriage.”

Due to the religious nature of the practices of FGM and forced marriage, victims feel that they are not able to speak out about their experiences for fear of being “shamed” or worse. Priscilla Karim, who was kidnapped and forced to undergo FGM in Sierra Leone aged nine said: “I grew up with the fear that if I [told] anyone, I was going to die because that was what they made me believe – that whatever happens there is kind of a secret.”

Following the summit, legislation is currently in progress to:

  • allow FGM survivors anonymity in UK court
  • make clearer laws surrounding parental liability where they did not prevent FGM or forced marriage
  • improved police response time to cases of this nature
  • improved police training surrounding FGM and forced marriage
  • Department of Education to raise awareness in schools and provide briefings for teachers

When questioned regarding legislation at the summit, May responded: “Legislation isn’t enough. We must raise awareness – challenge social norms and protect those at risk.”