Countries that ratify the treaty would be obligated to protect and support women affected by violence, including FGM. They would be required to provide services such as counselling, legal aid, shelters and medical services. Under the Istanbul Convention, women and girls fleeing their countries from FGM or forced marriage would be able to seek international protection under a better developed asylum system, which is currently lacking in the UK.

Naana Otoo-Oyortey, FORWARD’s Executive Director states that: “FORWARD is calling on the UK government to ratify this landmark Istanbul Convention to demonstrate the government’s commitment to tackling all forms of violence against women in the UK, including FGM and forced marriage. Ratification of the Istanbul Convention would require the government to put in place the much needed comprehensive national action plan on FGM for the UK since the current piecemeal policy approach to tackling FGM was labelled as scandalous in the Home Office Select Committee Report on FGM. Following on from last week’s Girls Summit we ask that the Government not lose momentum in its commitment to fighting FGM by ratifying this treaty as a matter of urgency.”

The Girls Summit hosted last week by the UK government and UNICEF saw the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary announce further action to tackle FGM in the UK and they touched upon the glaring gaps within the current policy framework. FORWARD along with many other European campaigning groups such as Amnesty Ireland’s END FGM European Campaign now ask that these commitments are met with action. Christine Loudes, Campaign Director, END FGM European Campaign also notes that: “At the Girls summit last week, the UK pledged to accelerate action to end female genital mutilation worldwide. It must now put words into deeds and join the 14 countries that have already ratified the Istanbul Convention. Ratifying and implementing the Istanbul Convention is not a question of granting special rights to women and girls, it is about preventing further violations of their human rights.”

In the EU an estimated 500,000 women and girls have suffered from FGM and an additional 180,000 are at risk each year. The countries in the EU with the largest numbers of women and girls originating from FGM practising countries are: the UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Italy, France, Germany, Sweden and Belgium. FGM is illegal in the UK and it negatively affects women’s physical and mental health.