In light of today’s news that the mother of a three-year-old girl has become the first person in the UK to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM), FORWARD, a London based African women’s organisation, raises concerns and is surprised that there seems to be general rejoicing that a successful prosecution on FGM has finally happened in the UK. This is time for deeper reflection. If indeed FGM did take place then we have to remember that a vulnerable girl has been harmed, a girl was NOT protected and we need to ask questions as to why this Failure to Protect occurred in the UK.
FORWARD’s position has always been that ALL girls should be protected from undergoing FGM. This means that key professionals should be trained to be able to speak to communities about the real risks of FGM and to be vigilant in protecting girls. At the same time communities should be empowered to take responsibility for protecting their daughters from FGM. For many communities who practice FGM, this is an embedded social norm, which means that families come under huge pressure to continue this practice. Thus, it is very important to tackle the barriers to engaging FGM affected communities in the UK. Without effective community engagement this social norm will take longer to shift.
FORWARD’s Executive Director Naana Otoo-Oyortey comments: This case highlights sadly what FORWARD has always feared, that girls remain at risk of undergoing FGM in the UK, not only abroad. Therefore more needs to be done at policy and community levels to safeguard the rights and dignity of all girls.
While FORWARD does not know the technicalities leading to the conviction of this mother, we recognise that FGM is an extremely complex issue and agree that those guilty are punished accordingly. We reiterate the position that policies and laws should be backed with adequate funding to ensure that communities who are affected by FGM are informed of these laws, that professionals are adequately trained to provide sensitive and correct information on FGM to parents and girls, to effectively safeguard girls and prevent such crimes happening.
FGM is an entrenched harmful practice that has affected more than 130 million girls and women globally. Many migrant communities residing in Europe continue the practice. In the UK it is estimated that over 137,000 women are living with the consequences of FGM and 60,000 girls are at risk. FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985 and the law was revised in 2015.
To find out more about the work of FORWARD visit: www.forwarduk.org.uk
Notes to Editors:
For media enquiries please contact: Naomi Reid: [email protected] , Tel: 020 8960 4000 (option 6)
FORWARD is an African- led, women’s rights organisation. Our work focuses on the issues of female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and other forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) that impact health, dignity and wellbeing of African women and girls. www.forwarduk.org.uk Twitter: @FORWARDUK
FORWARD has been campaigning against FGM and other forms of Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) affecting African women and girls since 1983.