Turning the tide on mutilation

18-Mar-2014 @ 16:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

“High-powered, emotional and inspiring…I hope this daycan be a landmark in this important struggle.”

That was how campaigning MEP Marina Yannakoudakis todaydescribed her conference in London on the scandal of female genital mutilation(FGM) – and moves to eradicate it forever.

After hearing from a top-level panel of internationalexperts including politicians, journalists, medical professionals and fellowcampaigners – plus a brave survivor of mutilation, Mrs Yannakoudakis said:“What we have heard today has been inspirational. I hope and pray this may prove to be the daythe tide turned on this hidden disgrace – theunspeakable cruelty of FGM.

The conference at City Hall heard contributions from Public Health Minister Jane Ellison, theMayor of London Boris Johnson, Janet Fyle of the Royal College of Midwives,Walter Lutschinger of the Desert Flower Foundation, and Austrian MEP AngelikaWerthmann.

It was chaired by Sarah Sands, editor of the LondonEvening Standard, which has published a series of powerful articleshighlighting the prevalence and cruelty of mutilation. The Standard was alsomedia partner for the event.

The most powerful testimony came from Alimatu Dimonekene,from London, who told the horrifyingstory of how she had the agony of mutilation forced upon her at the age of 16in her native Sierra Leone. It happened at the home of her grandmother as olderfemale relatives held her down – against the wishes of her heartbroken mother.

At the same time, she said, her six-year-old sister alsohad parts of her sexual organs brutally cut away, by force and using dirtyinstruments without anaesthetic.

Mrs Dimonekene said the horror of the experience and thelasting physical consequences had left her with problems in childbirth as wellas psychological damage.

Opening the conference, Mrs Yannakoudakis said: “Byhighlighting a problem and talking about it, momentum gathers. Once peoplestart discussing a problem together; that is when we find solutions.

“By bringing together experts and professionals inEuropean, UK and local policy and at grassroots level, we can, together, findconcrete solutions to stop FGM. For my part, I have worked on FGM policy in theEuropean Parliament for 5 years now. As spokesman for Women’s Rights I haveworked on nearly 200 parliamentary reports and opinions. I have taken everyopportunity to include FGM policy in our work and have raised awareness of theproblem throughout the parliament.

“It is estimated that 500, 000 girls across Europe havebeen subjected to FGM. In a few weeks’time I am going to go to Paris to speak to government officials there aboutwhat they are doing to address FGM.

“France is the only country so far to have had aprosecution linked to FGM and I am keen to learn more about what they do so Ican share this with experts here. The effect of the prosecution, theconsequences to the family and how it was perceived by the community are areaswe need to examine.”

Although FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985 therehas not been a single prosecution, although it is estimated there are tens ofthousands of victims. Mars Yannakoudakis believes misplaced sensitivities overcultural and religious aspects to the FGM have led to ineffective management ofthe problem.

Earlier this month she launched a hard-hittingthree-point manifesto for the eradication of FGM. It demanded a more-robustapproach to prosecution, more-rigorous reporting and recording of cases to givea true picture of its prevalence, and end to sending unconditional developmentaid to countries that continue to allow FGM.

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