On the eve of International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, which also marks the first anniversary of the National Action Plan on female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK, FORWARD calls upon the UK Government to engage with African nations at the upcoming International conference and protect the rights of young women and girls who are subjected to, or are at risk of FGM at home and abroad.
As a partner of the END FGM European Campaign, we urge the UK Government to adopt a comprehensive approach to prevent and protect against FGM. As a signatory to several international instruments including CEDAW, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture, the UK must stand up against female genital mutilation, which is a human rights violation that discriminates against young girls and amounts to torture.
The European Parliament estimates 500,000 girls and women living in Europe have been subjected to FGM. Another 180,000 women and girls living in Europe are at risk of being mutilated each year. In the UK, a study by FORWARD published in 2007, estimated that 66,000 women in England and Wales were living with FGM.
While prevalence rates of FGM in African states are widely available, there is a knowledge gap in Europe. Using the International Conference ‘Uniting Europe and Africa to fight Female Genital Mutilation’ in The Hague on 25 November, FORWARD and the END FGM Campaign call on the UK to exchange best practices with its African counterparts to initiate data collection on the prevalence of FGM in Europe. “Without data, the issue will remain overlooked, the scale of the problem will be unknown and progress towards ending female genital mutilation will be limited”, said Dr Christine Loudes, Director, END FGM European Campaign.
Naana Otoo-Oyortey, Executive Director of FORWARD commented: “It is essential that the UK government works with Diaspora African communities in the UK to end this practice and to engage with their countries of origin to make FGM history in our generation.”
It has been found that girls living in Europe, including in the UK, are taken to their countries of origin during school holidays where they are mutilated. The END FGM Campaign asks the UK Government to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence against women – including FGM, taking place within or outside the country. Cross border cooperation should be facilitated between European and African states.
Within the country, girls at risk can be protected through development of protocols and guidelines as well as training for health and education professionals.
The UK must use this landmark day to stand up to its commitments to combat violence against women by engaging with community actors and supporting them to end female genital mutilation.
Notes to Editors
Female genital mutilation is a human rights violation in which part or all of the genitals of young girls generally below 15 years are pricked, cut or removed, usually without anaesthesia. The consequences include, but are not limited to, increased risks of HIV and infertility, chronic urinary and menstrual problems and complications during childbirth. FGM is a form of violence against women that is recognised internationally as a human rights violation.
FORWARD will join a representative of the UK Government at the International Conference ‘Uniting Europe and Africa to fight Female Genital Mutilation’ organised by the Dutch government on 25 November 2009. This conference will be attended by representatives of European and African states who will exchange good practices and learning from their combat against FGM.
END FGM European Campaign aims to put female genital mutilation on the political agenda in Europe and to echo the voices of women and girls who have subjected to, or are at risk of, FGM. For more information, go to: [www.endfgm.eu]
FORWARD is the leading UK registered charity led primarily by African women that campaigns against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Child and Forced Marriage (C&FM) and related sexual rights violations in the UK and Africa. Over the last 25 years, FORWARD has demonstrated a track record of achievements locally and globally through strong leadership and advocacy, partnerships, programme delivery and developing a solid infrastructure of support.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) constitutes partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or injury to the external female genitals for non therapeutic reasons. For more information on FGM, please visit: [www.forwarduk.org.uk]
For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Julia Lalla-Maharajh, Communications Adviser, FORWARD +44 (0)7876 654 243
Prerna Humpal, Media Officer, END FGM European Campaign, Brussels +32 2 548 2776