Girling: FGM more than just a big city problem

23-Sep-2015 @ 01:00

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The horrific practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is a national problem – not one merely confined to inner cities, a Conservative MEP is warning.

Julie Girling said a recent study showed that women and girls in danger of being subjected to so-called “cutting” are to be found all over the country – even in predominantly rural areas.

The warning was issued as Mrs Girling launched the next phase of a campaign by Conservative MEPs to end the horror of FGM, the practice of subjecting girls to having their outer sexual parts cut away in observance of tribal and religious traditions.

The MEP for the South West and Gibraltar said: “The danger exists not just in London or a handful of other big cities, it can affect girls anywhere – and every local council needs to be aware of the risk and train its staff to be vigilant for survivors and potential victims."

“That is why I aim to give renewed momentum to our campaign against a practice which is barbaric, cruel and must be treated as child abuse pure and simple.”

Last year Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis launched a hard-hitting campaign to tackle the global scandal of FGM. With backing from other key campaigners, she unveiled a ground-breaking three-point charter of measures to eradicate the horror of young girls having their outer sexual parts cut away – all to satisfy a misplaced sense of tradition and cultural identity.

The campaign calls for:

  • A more robust approach to bringing adults behind FGM to justice.

  • Better international recording and reporting of FGM to reveal the true scale of the scandal.

  • International “aid conditionality” – to use development funding as a moral lever on countries where FGM is allowed or even condoned.

  • It is the first time leading campaigners against FGM have come together behind a short and direct set of demands to put before international public administrators, politicians and policy-makers. After Mrs Yannakoudakis left the parliament last year, Mrs Girling replaced her as equality spokesman and is taking forward the fight against FGM.

FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985, yet there has not yet been a single prosecution. Conservatives have been at the forefront of efforts to galvanise EU-wide action against FGM. As well as holding the European Parliament’s first high-profile hearing on FGM, they organised a major conference in City Hall, London, chaired by Standard editor Sarah Sands and attended by London Mayor Boris Johnson, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison and FGM experts from across the world.

Today Mrs Girling pointed to research conducted by City University London and Equality Now which suggested that in 2011 there were 137,000 women and girls affected by FGM in England and Wales. Although a substantial proportion of those were in London, there were also concentrations in Manchester, Slough, Birmingham, Leicester and Bristol.

She said: “When you look at populations originating from countries area where FGM is prevalent you will find them everywhere. The research shows, for example, that there are more than 2,000 such women and girls in Buckinghamshire, about 1,500 each in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, and more than 2,800 in Oxfordshire." 

“These are not small numbers, so even in these mainly rural areas, we need to be sure that teachers, health workers, social care staff and police are all on the look-out for the problem.

“That is why I aim to build on Marina’s work. This is a dreadful crime against females, mainly children – but it is veiled in superstition and secrecy. It often happens to girls at the margins of society, isolated by a closed culture and lack of integration.

“But that must not mean that we stand back and see it as someone else’s problem. We must stop this terrible cycle of abuse.”

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