The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act was passed in 1985 as a result of lobbying and campaigning by FORWARD and other NGOs in the UK. Despite evidence that FGM continues in this country there have been no prosecutions to date. Many of the activities carried out to address the practice here have been carried out by voluntary organisations with inadequate support from the government.
In May this year FORWARD was part of the steering committee for the Parliamentary Hearing on FGM held by the All-party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health. The aim of the hearing was to raise awareness of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK and abroad and to generate support for FGM prevention and eradication programmes.
Dr Faith Mwangi-Powell of FORWARD, was one of those invited by the all-party group to give evidence on issues such as training, the effectiveness of the prohibition of Female Circumcision Act (1985), support, and care services available and work with community based organisations.
Outcomes of the Hearing
The report of these parliamentary hearings was launched on 22nd November with recommendations that the UK government tighten the Act to ensure that UK residents who take girls abroad to be mutilated can be prosecuted under UK law on their return. It calls on the government to categorise FGM as a form of physical abuse in all child protection literature, and develop a media and information campaign targeting grassroots communities and professionals.
The report also recognises the importance of education, and recommends that teachers receive training on FGM issues, and that FGM awareness information is incorporated into sex and relationship guidance.
The government should also provide technical and financial assistance to community groups working against FGM, sensitising communities to legislation, distributing literature and involving religious and community leaders, to focus on training and education programmes.
The report calls on the Department of Health to co-ordinate an interagency approach to the implementation of FGM programme and that each health authority and trust should have an FGM specialist responsible for training health professionals. Minority women should be given information on services available and access to primary health care.
The report also recommends that funds should be allocated for research into the incidence of FGM in the UK, and this data should be incorporated into core policy papers. Interagency research should also be carried out to determine needs in the UK.
Christine McCafferty MP chair of the All Party Group said:
“The practice of FGM is a violation of human rights and it is crucial that we raise awareness of the issue. It is a scandal that there have been no prosecutions under the UK law and that awareness of the Law is minimal. The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act is clearly ineffective and must be changed”.
“It is not a question of race or culture. Cultures are only sacred if they are consistent with Human rights. By enforcing FGM legislation we are ensuring that black children are not distinguished form white children. No child should suffer…it is important to have effective legislation to protect all children in this country.”