David Cameron said FGM and forced marriage were “abhorrent” practices
Parents will face prosecution if they fail to stop their daughters undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) under new measures being announced.
Prime Minister David Cameron is unveiling a £1.4m prevention programme aimed at ending the practice at a global summit in London.
It is estimated that up to 137,000 women and girls living in England and Wales could have undergone FGM.
The Girl Summit is also looking at ways to end forced marriage.
Hosted by the UK government and children’s charity Unicef, the summit is being attended by international politicians, campaigners including the Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, and women who have undergone FGM.
Addressing the conference, Mr Cameron described the existence of the practices as “standing rebukes to our world”.
He said: “It is absolutely clear about what we are trying to achieve.
“It is such a simple but noble and good ambition and that is to outlaw the practices of female genital mutilation…. and early forced marriage, to outlaw them everywhere for everyone within this generation.”
The FGM prevention programme will see the NHS working with girls affected by the practice.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of UN Women, said the situation is improving but many girls remain at risk.
She said: “There’s traction and more people that are willing to take a stand, but not enough yet.
“The fact that 30 million girls are at risk of being cut in the coming years clearly means that we have a big challenge on our hands.”
Priscilla Karim, who was forced to undergo FGM in Sierra Leone aged nine, described her ordeal.
She said: “I felt the worst pain of my life and a heavy object sitting on my chest and I just passed out.
“It’s like a taboo, they don’t tell you about it. You cannot tell anybody.
“I grew up with the fear that if I say to anyone, I was going to die because that was what they made me believe – that whatever happens there is kind of a secret.”
Female genital mutilation
- Includes “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”
- Practised in 29 countries in Africa and some countries in Asia and the Middle East
- An estimated three million girls and women worldwide are at risk each year
- About 125 million victims estimated to be living with the consequences
- It is commonly carried out on young girls, often between infancy and the age of 15
- Often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, to prepare a girl or woman for adulthood and marriage and to ensure “pure femininity”
- Dangers include severe bleeding, problems urinating, infections, infertility and increased risk of newborn deaths in childbirth
- In December 2012, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution calling for all member states to ban the practice
Source: World Health Organization
It has been illegal in Britain since 1985, but the first prosecutions – which are currently ongoing – were not until this year.
Other FGM measures include:
- Training for teachers, doctors and social workers to identify and help girls at risk
- Lifelong anonymity for victims
- New guidance for police on handling FGM cases
Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai is expected at the summit
An “international charter” calling for the eradication of FGM and forced marriage within a generation is also being unveiled, along with programmes to identify child and forced marriage in 12 developing countries.
Home Secretary Theresa May, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Justine Greening, the international development secretary, are also appearing at the summit.
Jane Dreaper, BBC health correspondent
Female genital mutilation has become a prominent issue in the UK in the past couple of years.
No one knows for sure how many women and children here are affected.
But ministers have underlined that it is a form of child abuse – and the UK should do all it can to prevent it.
The prime minister is keen to demonstrate leadership on global issues beyond his increased spending on foreign aid, which has proved controversial at times.
Today’s summit aims to eradicate FGM and child or forced marriage within a generation.
Is this doable? Summits like these sometimes fail to achieve their stated aims – but even when targets are not reached, there is still a sense of momentum and progress.
And that could make a significant difference to the lives of thousands of girls worldwide.
Mrs May said: “FGM and forced marriage are incredibly harmful practices, and it is terrible to think about the number of women and girls in the UK who have been subjected to these crimes.”
Home Secretary Theresa May addressed the summit at Walworth Academy in London
MPs recently said the UK’s failure to tackle FGM was a “national scandal”, and that failures by ministers, police and other agencies had led to the “preventable mutilation of thousands of girls”.
Unicef said its research showed that more than 130 million girls and women had experienced some form of FGM in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where it is most common.
It also said 250 million women and girls alive today were married before the age of 15.
Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said: “The numbers tell us we must accelerate our efforts.”
via BBC News – FGM summit: Parents to be prosecuted under new measures.