This page includes articles about FGM. It's aim is to help people understand FGM and what is trying to be done about eradicating it within the UK.




LONDONER SET TO BE CHARGED WITH CARRYING OUT FGM IN LANDMARK CASE
(London Evening Standard, dated 2nd November 2017 author Martin Bentham)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/londoner-charged-with-causing-fgm-in-landmark-uk-prosecution-a3674656.html

A London man is to be charged with inflicting female genital mutilation in a landmark prosecution.

The 49-year-old from south London is alleged to have carried out the crime on a young girl between 2010 and 2013. If the new prosecution is successful it will be the first British conviction for FGM.

The man will appear at Woolwich crown court tomorrow charged with two offences alleging that he “excised, infibulated or otherwise mutilated the whole or part of the labia minora” of the girl.

He is also charged with alternative offences of wounding the child, and three separate counts of child cruelty.

It is only the second female genital mutilation prosecution in the UK since the practice was made illegal in 1985. The first, against a London doctor and another man, ended with not-guilty verdicts.

The man in the new prosecution cannot be named for legal reasons but is understood to come from Africa.

The Crown Prosecution Service said today: “Following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service the CPS can confirm we have authorised proceedings against a 49-year-old man for two counts contrary to section 1 Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, and two alternative counts of wounding with intent contrary to section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

“The offences are alleged to have taken place between five and seven years ago. The man also faces three counts of child cruelty, contrary to the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.”

Legislation banning FGM in Britain was first passed in 1985. The law has been strengthened since to prohibit the mutilation overseas of girls from this country. Despite this, and the efforts of campaigners such as Londoner Nimco Ali, it has so far proved difficult for police and prosecutors to find sufficient evidence to charge alleged perpetrators.

NHS statistics show that thousands of women and girls in London have suffered FGM, which can lead to lifelong physical and psychological damage, although many are thought to have suffered mutilation many years ago and to have had the procedure overseas.

This month Ms Ali told the Standard she believes eradicating FGM completely is now possible by 2030.

The all-party parliamentary group to combat FGM was relaunched in October, co-chaired by Labour’s Jess Phillips and Tory MP Zac Goldsmith.

(1st December 2017)


SADIQ KHAN URGED TO LAUNCH CAMPAIGN AGAINST FGM
(London Evening Standard, dated 25th April 2017 author Martin Bentham)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.standard.co.uk/news/london/sadiq-khan-urged-to-launch-new-fgm-campaign-and-make-london-zero-cutting-city-a3523006.html

Sadiq Khan was today urged to lead a new campaign against female genital mutilation as a report called for London to be turned into a "zero cutting city" to protect girls from barbaric violence.

The London Assembly said that "positive progress" was being made in the battle to eliminate FGM, with police, health staff and teachers all working to tackle the problem.

But it warned that "new cases of FGM in London are still being discovered" and called for the Mayor to begin a publicity drive to spell out the dangers of mutilation.

In its report, the Assembly also urged Mr Khan to ensure better training for those likely to encounter girls and women with FGM, and to ensure that police have enough funding to pursue perpetrators.

Unveiling the findings today, Jennette Arnold, the assembly's deputy chairwoman, said FGM was an "unacceptable" violent crime that inflicted "very serious, immediate and long-term consequences" on girls and women.

She added: "More needs to be done. It remains a hidden crime - still taking place behind closed doors, with many girls still at risk.

"New cases of FGM in London are still being discovered and London has the highest prevalence of FGM in the country.

"I am more determined than ever that London becomes a zero cutting city. We want the Mayor to champion the fight against FGM and translate his promises into action."

Today's report says the capital accounts for half of FGM cases recorded in England.

Brent, Southwark, Enfield, Ealing, Lambeth, Camden and Greenwich were all among the 12 local authorities with the highest number of new cases found between April 2015 and March last year.

Eight recommendations are made to address the problem, each involving the Mayor.

They include a call for Mr Khan to make clear what resources he will give to tackle FGM, and a demand that he "engage with communities affected by FGM" to raise awareness and improve preventative work.

Hibo Wardere, an FGM survivor and campaigner who helped the Assembly with its investigation into the problem, said the report was "exactly what's needed - to go from talking about FGM, to doing something about it".

Sophie Linden, deputy mayor for policing and crime, said "many girls" in the capital were at risk of FGM and that City Hall was working with police, health workers and others to tackle the problem.

She added: "FGM is an appalling practice, and the Mayor and I are committed to tackling it as part of our work to drive down violence against women and girls.

"It is crucial to raise awareness amongst parents about the dangers to their daughters.

"We've invested £250,000 in a pilot scheme across five boroughs providing specialist training to frontline workers who encounter FGM.

"We need to tackle the lack of understanding about FGM and ensure that people who carry out such barbaric practices are brought to justice."

(1st June 2017)


MILLION WOMEN RISE MARCH - HUNDREDS TAKE TO STREETS OF CENTRAL LONDON IN PROTEST OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
(London Evening Standard, dated 11th March 2017 author Chloe Chaplain)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.standard.co.uk/news/london/million-women-rise-march-hundreds-take-to-streets-of-central-london-in-protest-of-violence-against-a3487331.html

Hundreds of women brought central London to a standstill to protest over violence against women and girls, days after International Women's Day.

Gathering for the 10th annual Million Women Rise march, women and young girls marched through Oxford Circus on Saturday chanting "Whatever I wear, wherever I go, yes means yes and no means no".

Making their way to Trafalgar Square, the protesters, including anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) campaigners, called for "safe streets" and "no excuse for violent men".

Ann Samuel, a student from London who attended the march said: "It's about awareness and women raising their voices and making themselves heard.

"I think more needs to be done against domestic abuse, domestic violence for women. They say when one woman stands up, they stand up for all women.

"Services are being cut and we can't let that happen. It affects everyone one way or another so being here makes a difference."

Celebrating its 10th year, the march was formed to campaign against the "global pandemic" of male violence against women.

The protest follows International Women's Day and comes weeks after the Women's March, which drew millions to the streets worldwide.

(2nd April 2017)


FGM SHOULD NOT BE PROSECUTED, POLICE FORCE SAYS AS IT CLAIMS BEST COURSE OF ACTION IS TO "EDUCATE PARENTS"
(The Telegraph, dated 27th February 2017 author Harry York)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/27/fgm-should-not-prosecuted-police-force-says-claims-best-course/

Parents caught practising female genital mutilation on their children should not be prosecuted, a police force has claimed as it says the best course of action is to "educate parents".

The claims, made by West Midlands Police on social media yesterday, have provoked criticism from MPs and child welfare activists, who said the force's reluctance to seek prosecution was "deeply disturbing".

The feud comes after a spokesman for the force claimed that it was against "prosecuting/jailing" parents who had carried out FGM on the grounds that it would be "unlikely to benefit" children who fall victim to the crime.

Instead, they claimed that the force had opted to focus on "education and safeguarding vulnerable girls", rather than seeking prosecution in court.

The stance appears to contradict efforts made by Theresa May whilst Home Secretary to clamp down on the crime, following disclosures last year that there has not been a single conviction for FGM in the UK - despite it being an offence since 1985.

Tim Loughton, a member of the Home Affairs Committee, said the reluctance to pursue prosecution was "extremely dangerous", adding it made "no sense" to go after cases of historic child abuse whilst at the same time allowing FGM offenders to "get away with it".

"It is absolutely key to expose perpetrators and to nail them for it," he added. "The police must go after offenders. This is deeply disturbing because a key part of eradicating the violence of FGM is exposing, prosecuting, and nailing the perpetrators.

"This is something the Home Affairs Committee has looked into closely. Our report in September raised key concerns that nobody has been prosecuted, and that we need a high level prosecution to show people that this is a serious criminal offence.

"Every time a prosecution fails to materialise, it encourages those that are behind this - that it is not a serious crime, and they can get away it."

Echoing Mr Loughton's comments, the NSPCC said that police forces must pursue prosecution where necessary to act as a proper deterrent.

An estimated 137,000 women and girls living in the UK having moved here from countries where the abuse is still practised are believed to have been victims of FGM. The number of British FGM victims is currently unknown.

However, there is yet to be a single conviction for the crime; police forces across the country have carried out only a small number of investigations since 2003.

Wendy Bird, detective inspector at West Midlands Police, said the force was committed to "raising awareness" and educating against the dangers of FGM.

"We continue to lead the way in the use of new FGM Protection Orders to safeguard women and girls thought to be at risk. If a victim is identified we safeguard other children within the family and potentially any unborn children.

A spokesman for the Home Office said it had "significantly strengthened" the law in recent years, adding that the FGM must be viewed as a crime and child abuse.

(1st March 2017)


CALL THE MIDWIFE PRAISED FOR FGM STORYLINE
(BBC News, dated 27th February 2017)

Full article : www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-39104244

Call the Midwife has been praised by viewers for tacking female genital mutilation (FGM) in its latest episode.

The episode featured a pregnant Somali woman who had undergone the procedure as a child, leading her to go through a traumatic delivery.

Viewers called the programme's makers "brave" and praised the show for its "sensitive" portrayal of the subject.

More than 8.5 million tuned in to watch the episode, giving the 1960s-set drama 36% of the audience share.

The programme was followed by tweets from the NHS and the NSPCC offering advice, help and support.

Writer Caitlin Moran called the episode "important TV", while Sarah Doran wrote in the Radio Times: "It's high time naysayers acknowledged #CallTheMidwife is one of UK TV's most powerful dramas."

Earlier this month Charlene James received a Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Cuttin' It, a drama about female genital mutilation that toured the UK last year.

(1st March 2017)


FLAWS IN FGM TRAINING LET OFFENDERS ESCAPE JUSTICE, SAYS DEPUTY MAYOR
(London Evening Standard, dated 6th February 2017 author Martin Bentham)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.standard.co.uk/news/london/fgm-offenders-have-escaped-justice-for-too-long-deputy-mayor-of-london-sophie-linden-says-a3459321.html

London's deputy mayor for policing today warned that people who inflict female genital mutilation on girls had escaped justice "for too long", as she stepped up pressure for new prosecutions over the "abhorrent" crime.

Sophie Linden said that a "lack of understanding among frontline professionals and inconsistencies in the way these crimes are recorded" had allowed perpetrators to avoid charges, despite genital mutilation being a "widespread" problem.

She said the situation "has to change" and vowed that City Hall would work to spread the message that FGM was illegal and unacceptable.

Ms Linden's comments came as campaigners staged an international day of "zero tolerance" against female genital mutilation. Events included a protest outside Ealing town hall over the closure next month of the Acton African Well Woman Centre, which has given 500 women FGM reversal procedures and offered psychological support to hundreds of others since opening in 2007.

The centre is shutting because of a decision to stop providing advocacy and midwife services there in a move which campaigners say is a betrayal of vulnerable women.

In her comments today, Ms Linden focused on the failure to secure any convictions for FGM, despite the practice being illegal in Britain since 1985 and a series of subsequent legislative changes designed to make it easier to bring prosecutions.

Ms Linden said that FGM was "an abhorrent practice" and "a widespread issue with thousands of girls at risk", and that she and Mayor Sadiq Khan were "committed to tackling it as part of our work to drive down violence against women and girls".

However, she added: "For too long, there has been a lack of understanding among frontline professionals and inconsistencies in the way these crimes are recorded, meaning that people are not being prosecuted for these barbaric practices. This has to change.

"We are working with a range of partners, including the police, schools, health services and local communities to spread the message that this is an illegal, unacceptable practice."

Ms Linden said that City Hall had also spent £250,000 on a pilot scheme across five boroughs, in which specialist training has been provided to frontline workers who help women who are either at risk of, or have experienced, harmful practices such as FGM.

Meanwhile, in a further development today, the National Police Chiefs' Council and the Freedom charity began a campaign of selling red triangle badges to raise awareness among people that FGM is a crime. The proceeds will be used to supply books about FGM to schools.

(1st March 2017)


LONDON FGM CLINIC TO CLOSE AFTER FUNDING CUT
(The Guardian, dated 24th January 2017 author Grace Shutti)

Full article [Option 1]:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/24/london-fgm-clinic-to-close-after-funding-is-cut-acton-clinic

A London clinic for women who have undergone female genital mutilation is being forced to close after the local council withdrew funding from March 2017.

The Acton African Well Woman Centre was awarded the Guardian sponsored Diversity and equality award in 2011 and houses experts in the field of FGM who are able to help women who have been through the trauma of the procedure.

It also offers women deinfibulation - a reversal of of the most extreme form of FGM. Type III is the removal of the entire genitalia, leaving a hole small enough for urine and menstrual blood to pass through.

"Ealing council's priority is to raise awareness of FGM and the support available to a wider audience," a spokesman told the Guardian.

"We will continue to commission FGM awareness work in the borough to reach more people such as schools and community groups and signpost women to clinical support."

The clinic was notified of the council's decision late last year, but the closure was confirmed following the rejection of a last-ditch appeal to Ealing clinical commissioning group for alternative funding.

taff have told the Guardian closing the clinic will destroy a strong community of women who bring "sisters, cousins and friends" to the service.

"I don't think anyone is questioning the value and expertise of the service," a worker said, but I wonder if it was white middle-class women who were vocal and out there would they close down the service?

"These are vulnerable women and they don't have many places to go. It's devastating that this clinic can't survive after 10 years demonstrating that it is a gold standard."

Since opening in 2007, the Acton clinic has seen more than 1,000 women in its fortnightly open hours and staff have performed upwards of 500 deinfibulations.

A number of healthcare professionals have been trained by the clinic, including GPs at a community-based service in Bristol, which is modelled on the Acton service.

The clinic does not refuse women from outside Ealing borough, which means any woman from across the UK can walk in. Women have come from as far as Northern Ireland seeking help.

Leyla Hussein, a psychotherapist, survivor and campaigner, has referred women to the clinic. "What commissioners need to understand is that there's a taboo," she said. "[Women] aren't going to go to the clinic in their area and we shouldn't put barriers around them when they need to have access. I'm shocked and disappointed that the commissioners didn't take that into account.

"A majority of women are cut by women. The idea of these women trusting other women is a big deal. That they trust them is brave of these women to do that. Now that they have become confident and trusting, it's going to be taken away from them."

A petition to save the service has gathered more than 17,217 (updated) signatures :

https://www.change.org/p/save-the-acton-fgm-community-clinic?source_location=minibar

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FGM SUPPORT CLINIC TO SHUT AFTER FUNDING AXED
(London Evening Standard, datd 24th January 2017 author Martin Bentham)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.standard.co.uk/news/london/fgm-support-clinic-to-shut-after-funding-axed-a3448026.html

Campaigners are fighting to save a pioneering clinic for victims of female genital mutilation after council and health chiefs decided to halt funding.

The Acton African Well Woman Centre, which has done FGM reversal surgery on about 500 women and helped hundreds more since it opened in 2007, is due to shut at the end of March.

It follows a decision by Ealing council, which funded an advocacy service there, and the Imperial College Healthcare Trust, which provided a midwife, to end support.

The Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group has refused to replace the funding due to pressure on its resources and the availability of other FGM services in west London.

Midwives and campaigners, who have started a petition calling for the clinic to be saved, insist the Acton centre has been providing a unique service that allows newly wed or engaged women to have their FGM reversed.

A document from the campaigners says: "We often see women that have never spoken about their FGM before and do not feel that they can discuss FGM with their GP, and they frequently reveal that they have suffered years of urinary tract infections and painful sexual intercourse prior to accessing our service.

"The community setting is very important as this is easily accessible and word of mouth brings women from all over London and the UK to our clinic."

Janet Fyle, a spokeswoman on FGM for the Royal College of Midwives, said the closure is "disgraceful".

She added: "The clinic costs £40,000 a year to run and £400 per woman treated. All these politicians are talking about FGM.

"Yet they find it difficult to fund a service that delivers both health and psychological support to younger women to enable them to forge relationships."

Ealing said its priority was "to raise awareness of FGM and the support available" and that it would "continue to commission FGM awareness work" and direct women to clinical support.

Ealing CCG said it had never funded the clinic and was unable to do so now due to "financial constraints".

It said other clinics operated at Queen Charlotte's & Chelsea, St Mary's, Northwick Park and Central Middlesex hospitals. Imperial College Healthcare said it can no longer provide a free midwife.

(4th February 2017)



THE GUARDIAN ARTICLES ON FGM

https://www.theguardian.com/society/female-genital-mutilation



CHARITY WARNS OF FGM "PARTIES" TAKING PLACE IN ENGLAND
(BBC News, dated 13th December 2016 author David Rhodes)

Full article : www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-38290888

Girls are being taken to female genital mutilation (FGM) "parties" in cities across England, a charity has warned.

The Black Health Initiative in Leeds says midwives from Africa are being flown into the country to carry out the illegal practice.

West Yorkshire Police said they were aware girls were being subjected to FGM locally.

Latest NHS figures show more than 8,000 women across England have recently been identified as being victims of FGM.

FGM is an illegal practice in the UK and carries a sentence of up to 14 years in jail. It is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia, for non medical reasons.

Heather Nelson, Chief Executive of the Black Health Initiative, said: "We know of parties happening here in England, and in West Yorkshire we recently had to break one up, and we've stopped another from taking place.

"What we're finding now is that where once girls were taken abroad to be cut, specialist midwives are now flown over and several girls are cut at the same time, which then leads to a celebration."

The charity said it had a referral from a school in Leeds last week regarding an eight-year-old girl who they thought was playing truant.

"In fact she was disappearing from class because it took her an hour to go to the toilet, such was the pain she was experiencing," Ms Nelson said.

"People will say why don't you call the police if you hear about one of these parties? But when you call the police you find that not every officer has an awareness of what FGM is."

West Yorkshire Police said they were aware that women and girls in Yorkshire had been subjected to the act of FGM.

Ass Ch Con Russ Foster said: "We are doing everything we can to tackle this issue and it is vital that all our partners continue to work together to make a difference."

The force said it had no "specific intelligence" about FGM "parties" taking place.

Areas in England with the highest number of recorded FGM victims include Birmingham, Bristol, London and Manchester.

'I don't feel like a woman'


Fatima, from Sheffield, was subjected to FGM when she was 10 years old while living in Africa.

"One day my auntie came to our house to take me to the place where they were going to cut me, and when we got there five women pinned me down.

"Afterwards I got an infection and that means now I can't have children.

"I don't feel like a woman because I can't feel anything. Everyday I think about it and it makes me very angry."

A recent report by the Home Affairs Select Committee said it was a "national scandal" that no one in the UK had ever been successfully prosecuted for a FGM offence.

There are no definitive figures that detail exactly how many women in England have actually been a victim of FGM.

A study by the City University of London published in 2015 estimated there were 137,000 women who have been subjected to the practice in England and Wales.

Meanwhile, NHS Digital began collating data in April 2015 about the number of women and girls coming into contact with the NHS who have been a victim of FGM at some point in their lives.

These figures show that 8,718 women have been identified as FGM victims, with 68 females saying the procedure had been carried out in the UK.

Female genital mutilation victims

Number of victims identified by the NHS since April 2015

Birmingham : 680
Bristol : 550
Brent : 430
Manchester : 425
Southwark : 420
Enfield : 270
Lambeth : 265
Ealing : 260
Sheffield : 255
Leeds : 180

(20th December 2016)



MAKE LESSONS ON FGM COMPULSORY, SAY DOCTORS
(London Evening Standard, dated 2nd December 2016 author Martin Bentham)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/make-lessons-on-fgm-compulsory-say-doctors-a3410766.html

Doctors today called for school pupils to be given compulsory lessons on tackling violence against women, as they criticised ministers for failing to do enough to protect girls against female genital mutilation.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said that the classes - recommended in a report by MPs - could play an "important" role in tackling FGM by teaching children that they did not have to accept violence being perpetrated against them.

They said the "rights-based" lessons would also help combat all other forms of "exploitation" and that the Government had missed an opportunity by failing to act.

The doctors' call follows a parliamentary response by Home Secretary Amber Rudd to a report on FGM by the Commons home affairs select committee.

The committee called for mandatory "personal, social, health and economic" classes in which violence against women and FGM would be addressed.

Ms Rudd said, however, that although the idea would stay "under review" each school should be free to determine its curriculum.

Dr Deborah Hodes, a London consultant and spokeswoman on child protection for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, warned that this "did not go far enough" and said that the classes should be compulsory.

"The curriculum should include tackling violence against women and girls, emphasising the right of a child to be safe from FGM, early and forced marriage and all forms of exploitation," she said.

"The Government has missed an opportunity to educate young people and imbed important messages stressing their right not to accept all forms of violence, including FGM, which young people will take with them through life."

In her response to Parliament, Ms Rudd said FGM was an "appalling crime" that ministers were determined to eradicate.

She added: "We will not tolerate this practice and we are committed to taking concerted action to prevent, and ultimately end it."

(20th December 2016)



AMBER RUDD : I'M CONFIDENT THAT FGM CAN BE WIPED OUT WITHIN A GENERATION

(London Evening Standard, dated 30th November 2016 author Joe Murphy)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/amber-rudd-i-m-confident-that-fgm-can-be-wiped-out-within-a-generation-a3408536.html

The horror of female genital mutilation can be "wiped out in a generation", Home Secretary Amber Rudd will tell a major conference in London on Thursday.

At the event - bringing together survivors, health workers, police and international organisations - Ms Rudd will say: "FGM is a devastating act of violence that no woman or girl should ever have to suffer." A survivor will describe her ordeal, calling being cut "one of the worst forms of violence a woman or child can go through".

Sarian Kamara, 39, will say: "It stays with you for ever and it is a big part of your life. Everyone is responsible and everyone can do their little bit to make sure girls and women are protected from these kinds of violence."

The "Ending FGM" event has been organised to find ways to make government and agencies engage better with communities where FGM, previously known as female circumcision, is tolerated, with the aim of changing behaviour. Ms Rudd will express her frustration that no one has yet been prosecuted successfully in the UK, and say there is "more to do".

"Our ultimate aim is to stop all FGM before it happens," she will say. "We must continue to use all the tools at our disposal to shield women and girls from harm. The clear commitment shown by my government colleagues as well as community groups, frontline workers and international organisations makes me confident that we can wipe out FGM within a generation."

Among those taking part are minister for vulnerability Sarah Newton, public health minister Nicola Blackwood and Solicitor General Robert Buckland.

One report has estimated there are 66,000 victims in England and Wales and that 24,000 girls under 15 could be in danger.

(1st December 2016)

 


DOCTORS FACE PROSECUTION OVER GENITAL COSMETIC SURGERY IN LONDON CLINICS
(London Evening Standard, dated 21st November 2016 author Martin Bentham)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/doctors-face-prosecution-over-genital-cosmetic-surgery-in-london-clinics-a3400726.html

Two London doctors are facing prosecution for allegedly carrying out illegal cosmetic surgery on women at clinics in the capital.

The women who had the "designer vagina" procedures were adults who paid for the surgery in the belief that it would make them more attractive.

But Scotland Yard detectives are now carrying out a criminal investigation after being alerted to the cases and deciding that the doctors' actions involved a potential breach of legislation outlawing female genital mutilation.

Files on both doctors have now been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service for charging decisions. A file has also been sent to prosecutors on a third case in Cheshire.

The news will raise hopes that a first conviction under anti-FGM legislation could be secured after the failure last year of the only prosecution so far.

The police investigations will also prompt renewed debate about cosmetic genital surgery, which includes labia reduction and vaginal tightening.

It comes after the pop star Sinitta revealed plans to have her own "vaginoplasty" filmed and broadcast online.

The singer, 53, has already put footage of a friend having a "designer vagina" operation on the Periscope site.

Such procedures - which critics say are wrongly promoted as enhancing sexual pleasure and attractiveness - are carried out widely at clinics in Harley Street and elsewhere.

The Home Office warned two years ago, however, in evidence to Parliament, that the operations may be illegal unless there was a medical or psychological reason for them.

That prompted renewed attention on the issue from police and prosecutors, resulting in the criminal investigation into the two London doctors.

It is understood that in both cases prosecutors believe the evidential test which they apply before bringing charges has been met.

Prosecutors are assessing whether bringing charges is in the public interest. Sources say that since the application of law to "designer vagina" surgery has not been tested in court, government departments are being consulted.

The views of royal medical colleges and anti-FGM campaign groups will also be considered as prosecutors prepare guidance to determine their approach. This is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Decisions over bringing charges will follow.

"So-called designer vagina surgery is classed as FGM when it comes to rules on mandatory reporting," said a source. "The question [here] is whether it is in the public interest to prosecute."

There are no official figures on the number of cosmetic genital operations carried out, since many are conducted privately, but doctors believe the surgery is becoming more common.

A study by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has blamed the trend on "marketing by the private sector" and images online.

Doctors warn that women are being pressured by "unrealistic representations of vulval appearance in popular culture" and the advertising of the surgery as an "unproblematic lifestyle choice".

A report by the British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology on labia reduction has warned that there is "no scientific evidence" to support the practice and that the health risks, particularly to girls under 18, include infection and a loss of sensitivity.

There are similar concerns about surgery designed to increase the size of the "g-spot" and tighten the vagina.

Campaign groups against FGM have complained that a "double standard" is applied under which ethnic minority communities, which have traditionally practised mutilation, are being targeted by law enforcers while identical surgery carried out on white women for cosmetic reasons is tolerated.

The Commons Home Affairs Committee raised the same concern in a 2014 report and asked Theresa May, then the home secretary, to consider whether legislation was needed to close this potential "loophole". Mrs May replied that the 2003 Female Genital Mutilation Act covered cosmetic surgery.

In a submission to Parliament, she added: "The 2003 Act does not contain any exemption for cosmetic surgery. If a procedure ... is unnecessary for physical or mental health ... then it is an offence ... it would be for a court to decide if cosmetic surgery constitutes mutilation and is therefore illegal."

The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that it was assessing three files on suspected FGM offences, but declined to comment further.

The Met also declined to comment.

(1st December 2016)

 


POLICE URGED HOME SECRETARY TO BAN FGM PRACTITIONER FROM ENTERING UK
(The Guardian, dated 19th September 2016 author Karen McVeigh)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.theguardian.com/society/2016/sep/19/police-urge-home-secretary-to-ban-fgm-practitioner-from-entering-uk

Scotland Yard is urging the home secretary, Amber Rudd, to intervene in the case of woman from Sierra Leone who carries out female genital mutilation and is said to be seeking entry into the UK.

The Metropolitan police applied to the high court for a female genital mutilation protection order and a further order to prevent the woman from entering the UK.

Mr Justice Holman, however, sitting in London, said the question of whether the woman could enter the country was a matter for the secretary of state, not the court.

The woman, who was not named in court, is understood to be Kharday Zorokong, who was part of a Sierra Leonean delegation that included the minister for gender, Dr Sylvia Blyden, to the 73rd session of the UN committee on the rights of the child in Geneva last week. Zorokong performs FGM, but is opposed to operations on children under 18. Campaigners feared that she would come to the UK as part of Blyden's delegation after the meeting in Geneva.

Zimran Samuel, appearing for the police, said a campaigner in her 40s who was also an FGM survivorhad asked officers to take action to ban the practitioner.

Samuel did not name the cutter but said she had a "high-profile status" as the head of a council of practitioners in her community. Because of her status, people in the UK would want to use her services, even although it is illegal here, he said.

Samuel later said that he was concerned that there was a loophole in the law set up to protect women and girls against FGM, which allows for the protection of named individuals, but did not provide protection in a case such as this. He told the judge that a request to the home secretary to be stop Zorokong from entering the UK was in motion.

The judge said he found FGM "abhorrent and a terrible scourge on women", but "the right thing is to try to get the secretary of state not to let this woman in".

After the judge declined to make any orders, the Met said in a statement: "The MPS is now considering what other options are available to prevent the entry into the UK of a person who may wish to carry out FGM."

DS Wendy Morgan, from the Met's sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command, said: "FGM is illegal and constitutes child abuse. A lot of work has been done to raise awareness over the last few years of this horrific practice, highlighting the short- and long-term health risks and the absence of any religious teaching that supports it. However, we are not complacent and more still needs to be done.

"The Met spends time highlighting the support available to those who may be at risk. When victims come to us with concerns over the risks they face, no matter what stage they are at in their life, the Met takes take these concerns very seriously.

"Police have a responsibility to act to protect vulnerable people and prevent people, especially the vulnerable, from becoming victims of crime. The Met will always to seek to follow the law to carry out this responsibility."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "An individual can be excluded on the grounds that their presence is 'not conducive to the public good' if it is reasonable, consistent and proportionate based on the evidence available."

Before the Ebola outbreak forced a temporary ban on the practice, it was estimated that 88% of Sierra Leonean girls were cut, the seventh highest rate of the 28 countries in which FGM is practised.

FGM is not illegal in Sierra Leone, but ministers have proposed outlawing the practice among under-18s. Many anti-FGM campaigners in the country say the move would have little impact, because it is traditionally the parents who make the decision for a daughter, irrespective of age.

Nimko Ali, an anti-FGM campaigner and founder of Daughters of Eve, said she welcomed the judge's comment and was hopeful that Rudd would take action. She said that practitioners in Sierra Leone had a powerful role and political influence in the country.


Ali said: "I'm hopeful that this will be successful. The symbolic nature of the judge saying: 'I haven't got the power but you should explore other areas' is very welcome. The sense of impunity with which this woman can sit on the UN and say that FGM is an act of consent. If she were to visit the UK it would be a propaganda mission."

Anti-FGM campaigners from Sierra Leone have condemned Zorokong's appearance before the UN. At the meeting, Blyden spoke about protecting under-18s from FGM, but insisted that adult women should be allowed to "do what she wants to her body", ignoring the pressure on women to undergo mutilation.

Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff, part of the Not In My Name coalition with Equality Now, said it was inappropriate that Zorokong was present at the UN last week.

The first ever recorded figures for FGM, reported in July, showed that between April 2015 and March 2016 there were 5,702 new cases among women in England. Most of the women and girls were born in Africa and underwent the procedure there, but at least 18 were subjected to FGM in the UK.

(1st October 2016)

 


MPs DEMAND HARD LINE AGAINST CLINICIANS WHO DO NOT REPORT FGM
(The Guardian, dated 15th September 2016 author Alexandra Topping)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.theguardian.com/society/2016/sep/15/mps-demand-hard-line-against-clinicians-who-do-not-report-fgm

The government should impose harsher punishment on professionals who decide not to report female genital mutilation in children, saying they are "complicit in a crime being committed", according to a group of MPs.

The failure of the UK to make a single prosecution against FGM despite changes in legislation that make it mandatory for professionals to report FGM is "beyond belief" and is leading to "the preventable mutilation of thousands of girls", according to a damning report from the home affairs select committee.

The committee says it is alarmed by reports that clinicians are ignoring the requirement to report child cases of FGM to the police, which was put in place last year, and urges NHS employers and royal colleges to "take a hard line against such attitudes".

It states: "Existing disciplinary procedures for professionals who ignore the duty on mandatory reporting are insufficient and ineffective and it is unacceptable that some clinicians appear to refuse to accept it as their responsibility. The duty to report must not be seen as optional. A decision not to report puts children's lives at risk and is complicit in a crime being committed."

The committee risks reigniting a row with health professionals, some of whom have argued that mandatory reporting is counter-productive and compromises patient confidence.

The first annual statistics gathered on FGM released in July revealed there had been 5,700 new cases of female genital mutilation recorded in England in 2015-16, and provided hard evidence that the practice was happening on UK soil, with 18 cases recorded as happening in the UK. There are an estimated 134,600 women with FGM born in countries where FGM is practised and living in England. More than 20,000 girls a year are thought to be at risk of FGM in the UK.

FGM - the practice of removing some or all of a girl's outer sexual organs, which can lead to serious and lifelong health complications - has been illegal in the UK since 1985 but it took 29 years before the first prosecution was brought to trial. The defendants were found not guilty. Since 2010, only 29 cases of FGM offences have been referred to the CPS, with a number of cases still live. The report compared these result to other countries: in a similar period there have been 40 FGM-related trials in France, six in Spain; two in Italy and Sweden; and one each in the Netherlands and Denmark.

"It is beyond belief that there still has not been a successful prosecution for an FGM offence since it was made illegal over 30 years ago," stated the report. "That is a lamentable record and the failure to identify cases, to prosecute and to achieve convictions can only have negative consequences for those who are brave enough to come forward to highlight this crime."

There was a "strong case" for routine medical examinations of children deemed to be at particularly high risk of FGM, said the committee. The practice had resulted in "large number of successful prosecutions in relation to FGM in France" but would require "a radical change in practice in the UK" and risked being "unnecessarily traumatic".

The report also criticised the quality of data being gathered on FGM, although some progress had been made. Despite publicity surrounding the Government's Summit on FGM in 2015, there was still "a paucity of information on the scale of FGM, on its trends over time and on the number of girls at risk", stated the report. It called for a government FGM Unit - similar in scope to the Forced Marriage Unit - to collect data and report on progress in police investigations.

Police said on Wednesday that 33 children had been referred to safeguarding services, an 11-year-old girl was taken into police protection and a man and woman detained at Heathrow airport following a police operation that targeted flights to countries with high rates of FGM. Officers spoke to 5,000 people about UK law during Operation Limelight, according to the National Police Chiefs' Council, but the report said "much more needs to be done to detect and prevent girls from being taken out of the UK to undergo FGM".

Alison Macfarlane, a professor of perinatal health at City University London and author of a report on the prevalence of FGM in the UK, said the current methods of collecting data on FGM were "completely meaningless". She added: "Ferocious penalties against doctors who don't report FGM gets nobody anywhere. It is a sideshow from the positive things that are being done to prevent FGM, and it will deter women and girls from going to the doctor for help they may need."

The Royal College of Midwives said that while a prosecution was "an important element" in the fight against FGM, many survivors were finding it difficult to access health care and psychological support. "We must address the need for culturally appropriate physiological services for survivors of FGM," said the college's professional policy adviser, Janet Fyle. "They are not being provided at anywhere near the levels required," she added.

Equality Now, which has advised the government on FGM policy, said it did not support medical examinations of girls and did not think an FGM unit would be beneficial as "past experience showed that this did not work very effectively". Mary Wandia, End FGM programme manager, said: "Every girl at risk of FGM should be protected in every possible way - particularly by those with a duty of care. If there is a failure to prevent this - or any incidence of child abuse - then the person who failed should be held to account."

Nimko Ali, an anti-FGM activist and survivor, said she was confident that data collection and mandatory reporting - as well as a raised awareness about FGM - would result in a prosecution and welcomed the call for professionals to face disciplinary procedures if they failed to report FGM. "That prosecution will take time, but what is more important is that these policies are preventing girls from being cut in the first place, she said."

(1st October 2016)

 


UK SCHOOLS URGED TO BE ALERT TO FORCED MARRIAGE AHEAD OF SUMMER BREAK
(Daily Mail, dated 28th June 2016 author Emma Batha / Thomson Reuters)

Full article [Option 1]:

British teachers should be vigilant ahead of the long summer holidays for warning signs that parents might take their children abroad to marry them off or undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), experts warned on Monday.
The end of the school term "marks the start of the cutting season where young girls are taken abroad and brutally mutilated by their families," said Aneeta Prem, founder of Freedom Charity, which campaigns on forced marriage and FGM.
Girls and boys are at risk of being taken abroad for forced marriage, she told a conference for police, teachers and health and social workers in Stevenage, north of London.
There are an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 forced marriages or threats of forced marriage in Britain every year, experts at the conference said.
Girls threatened with forced marriage might appear anxious, depressed or withdrawn, lose interest in schoolwork or disappear from social networks such as Facebook, they said.
They also may harm themselves or develop an eating disorder.
Teachers should be alert if a girl's family suddenly restricts her movements, arranges for her to be escorted home from school by older brothers or if she says her parents are taking her on a holiday to meet someone, Prem said.
Summer holidays in Britain begin in July and usually last about six weeks but can be longer.
Forced marriage is linked to a slew of abuses including kidnapping, domestic violence, serial rape and even murder, conference experts said.
Many cases involve girls from South Asian backgrounds, but Britain's Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) said it has handled cases involving more than 90 countries since 2005.
Prem said the youngest suspected case of forced marriage she had seen involved a 6-year-old girl with special needs.
The practice is illegal under British law, even if carried out abroad, but police and teachers often are reluctant to intervene for fear of being branded racist, they said.
But Prem said intervention into possible forced marriage or honor abuse - violence carried out on someone believed to have shamed their family or community - could save lives.
"If someone is going to call you a racist, well, rather that than allow someone to be murdered," she said.
The conference heard about the case of teenager Banaz Mahmod, a Kurdish girl in London killed by her family in 2006 after being spotted kissing a boyfriend, having left an abusive marriage. She knew she was in danger, but police ignored a plea for help.
Comfort Momoh, one of the nation's top FGM experts, said alarm bells should ring if a girl talks about going on holiday for a special ceremony or shows a marked change in behavior following the summer break.
FGM can cause chronic pain, infections and problems with urination and menstruation so teachers should be alert if a girl takes frequent toilet breaks, cannot sit comfortably on the floor and regularly misses school, Momoh said.
Katie Furniss, joint head of the FMU, which said it helped more than 1,200 people last year, warned that teachers and social workers should not try to mediate with the family in a forced marriage case and should contact authorities such as the FMU.
"There have been cases of people being murdered while attempts at mediation were made," she said. (Reporting by Emma Batha, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change.

(1st July 2016)

 


ALMOST 200 NEW CASES OF FGM ARE REPORTED EVERY WEEK IN ENGLAND
(Daily Mail, dated 7th June 2016 author Kate Pickles)
Full article [Option 1]:

Nearly 200 cases of female genital mutilation are being reported every week in England, new figures have revealed.
More than 1,200 patients were treated between January and March - the equivalent of almost 14 women a day.
Figures released today reveal there were 1,242 newly-reported cases of FGM in England - a slight decrease from 1,316 between October and December last year.
And at least seven of the women and girls reported the procedure had been carried out illegally in the UK.
FGM is a harmful traditional practice that involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia.
The practise is illegal in the UK and it is also illegal to take a female abroad for the purposes of FGM with a maximum jail term for carrying out or enabling FGM of 14 years.
Since April 2014, the NHS has been required to collect data on female genital mutilation (FGM) from women attending hospitals, GP surgeries and mental health centres.
Other key findings from the Health and Social Care Information Centre report includes:

- Of the 1,242 new cases, 29 females were aged under 18 when they were first seen

- 11 women or girls affected were reported to have been born in the UK

- London accounts for more than half (52 per cent) of newly recorded cases and 60 per cent of total attendances

- Somalia, in Eastern Africa, accounts for more than a third of all newly recorded women and girls with a known country of birth

Women and girls were most likely to self-report that they had suffered FGM with almost three-quarters presenting themselves to health professionals.
Some 81 NHS trusts and 12 GP practices submitted data for one or more FGM attendances.
Tanya Barron, CEO of global children's charity Plan UK, which works to combat FGM worldwide, says the new statistics highlight the extent of the problem in England.
'These latest figures show we still have a way to go in the struggle to end FGM.
'Much progress has been made, not least at community level, in changing attitudes around the world and helping tackle the problem where it occurs.
'But more needs to be done both here in the UK and abroad to stop this fundamental human rights abuse.
'Only by empowering millions of girls and young women globally with quality education and other support will we end FGM.'
Last year, Home Secretary Theresa May said that in the UK, 137,000 women are living with the consequences of FGM and a 60,000 are at risk.
The figures she cited, from a report from City University London in collaboration with Equality Now, estimated that 10,000 girls aged under 15 who migrated to England and Wales are likely to have undergone FGM.
Last July, the Government launched a £1.4 million programme to tackle FGM, with the aim of ending the practice within a generation.
This included bringing in laws to prosecute parents if they fail to prevent their daughters being cut.
It also requires collecting data about FGM in hospitals in England and training both health professionals and police officers to respond appropriately to cases of FGM.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), FGM is carried out for social and religious reasons and is an 'extreme form of discrimination against women'.
FGM is estimated to lead to an extra one or two baby deaths per 100 deliveries worldwide.
Women with FGM also have increased risk of stillbirth, infants that need resuscitation and low birth weight babies.
The World Health Organisation recognises FGM as a 'violation of the human rights of girls and women'.
'It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women,' the agency said.
'The practice violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.'
It is estimated that between 100 and 140 million girls and women around the world have undergone genital mutilation.
Each year around three million women are thought to be at risk.
FGM ranges from the partial or total removal of the clitoris, to the removal of the entire clitoris and the cutting of the labia minora.
In its most extreme form, all external genitalia is removed and the two sides of a woman or girl's vulva are stitched together.
FGM is generally done without anaesthetic, and can have lifelong health consequences including chronic infection, severe pain during urination, menstruation, sexual intercourse, and childbirth and psychological trauma.
FGM has been a crime in the UK for 30 years, but there have been no convictions for the practice.

(1st July 2016)


MORE THAN 1200 CASES OF FGM RECORDED IN ENGLAND IN JUST THREE MONTHS

(The Independent, dated 8th June 2016 author Caroline Mortimer)

Full article [Option 1]:
of-fgm-recorded-in-england-in-just-three-months-a7069901.html

More than 1,200 cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) have been recorded in England over the past three months.

Between January and March there were 1,242 newly recorded cases of the practice - including on 11 girls born in the UK - reported across the NHS in England, according to newly released data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
At least two per cent of all new cases were girls under the age of 18.

In response to the findings, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) professional policy adviser Janet Fyle called on health workers to be "vigilant" when it comes to identifying and tackling FGM.
She said: "These figures show that we need renewed and focused efforts to tackle FGM.
This has to be backed by a national action plan so that all sectors and all professionals
see FGM as their business, and protecting girls from such abuses becomes a normal part of
their practice.
"Every one of these numbers is a girl or young woman who has been subjected to abuse.
"It's shocking that 29 of the new recorded cases (two per cent) are girls under 18. It is
even more of a concern that 11 of those were girls born in the UK.
"This is why all healthcare professionals need to be vigilant in identifying women and
girls at risk. They can then provide them with support and appropriate care and referral,
and collaborate in the collection of data.
"It is important that regulated professionals comply with their mandatory duty and legal
obligation to report FGM cases."
The practice - which was made illegal in the UK in 1985 - involves either partial or
total removal of the female external genitalia.
The most extreme form, known as infibulation, involves the cutting away of the clitoris
and sewing up the vulva to make a small hole for urine to pass through.
It is designed to make sexual intercourse painful for women and is supposed to stop them
becoming promiscuous.
The stitches will often be cut by a man's penis on a woman's wedding or using a knife
when she gives birth and she is sewn up again afterwards.
It has no health benefits or religious significance, but has been practiced in certain
cultures for centuries.
Despite the procedure being illegal in the UK for over 30 years there has never been a
successful prosecution against anyone found to practice it.
Last year, a case against a London doctor accused of performing FGM collapsed, but many
accused the Crown Prosecution Service of trying to scapegoat him for mistakenly resewing
the vagina of a woman who had just given birth.
A spokesman for the Local Government Association, which runs the National FGM Centre in
partnership with Barnardo's, told The Independent: "While these figures show new cases of
FGM recorded, the FGM Centre's pioneering pilot project is also providing a more detailed
picture of how many women and girls are at risk, adding to the information on total
numbers available from the NHS, so support can be better targeted going forward.
"The report states there were seven cases where FGM was undertaken in the UK. While front
line social workers in councils across the country are increasingly aware of the criminal
practice of FGM, it will only be stopped permanently if all agencies, including GP
practices, and communities work together to keep women and girls safe."

(8th June 2016)

 


CAMPAIGNER ATTACKED ON BUS "FOR WARNING PUPILS THAT FGM IS CHILD ABUSE"
(London Evening Standard, dated 4th April 2016 author Barney Davis)

Full article [Option 1]:

A survivor of female genital mutilation today told how she had been attacked in public over her outspoken campaign to confront the barbaric practice in London's schools.
Hibo Wardere, 46, who fled Somalia's civil war at the age of 18 having suffered FGM aged six, has made it her life's work to educate and speak frankly about the brutal surgery which affects 200 million women in 30 countries.
Mrs Wardere, a teaching assistant who visits schools to educate children about the procedure, has written a book about her one-woman fight to wipe out FGM in her lifetime.
The mother-of-seven from Walthamstow told the Standard how after speaking at one local school a child realised she had undergone FGM and confided in a teacher. "It broke my heart into a million pieces," she said. "It takes real courage to stand up at such a young age and seek help, especially against the wishes of your family."
But the Somalian's outspoken approach and refusal to sugar-coat the topic with young children has made her the target of attacks.
She said: "I had a scary confrontation on the 257 bus in Walthamstow. A woman with a full niqab recognised me and ran at me screaming my name and snarling, 'You came to my child's school, you told her FGM was abuse.'
"I could only see her eyes but they were full of rage. She was so angry she had to be dragged off the bus, but I was jumping for joy inside because that meant a child had confronted their parent."
A recent City University London and Equality Now study shows that FGM has been carried out on 137,000 women and girls living in England and Wales but Mrs Wardere believes these figures will sky-rocket once a full NHS survey comes out next year.
She is pressuring the Government for the dangers of FGM to be put on the national curriculum so the UK "can raise an entire generation to protect themselves". The majority of FGM in the UK takes place in London, with Brent having the highest concentration of any borough, but there is yet to be a single conviction for the practice.
Cut: One Woman's Fight against FGM in Britain Today comes out on Thursday

(19th April 2016)

 



LONDON GIRL TO BE INTERVIEWED BY POLICE OVER FGM FEARS
(London Evening Standard, dated 10th March 2016 author Sebastion Mann)


Full article [Option 1]:

A judge has ordered that an eight-year-old girl from south London be interviewed by police over concerns she was taken to Somalia by her mother to undergo female genital mutilation.
Metropolitan Police officers suspect the child was not actually cut because of intervention by authorities in the UK who urgently demanded her mother bring her home, the High Court's Family Division heard today.

The 49-year-old says she and her daughter were visiting a sick grandmother and she had no intention to allow FGM on her child.
With her husband acting as an interpreter, she told the court: "I would never agree to FGM. I don't believe in it."

The Metropolitan Police say the mother was found with a bag of medicine and ceremonial robes when she was arrested at Heathrow Airport on a flight from Nairobi, Kenya, at 5am on Wednesday.
Earlier this month a High Court order was obtained for the child's return after a south London school raised concerns that one of its pupils had failed to attend school and was being taken to Somalia.

The 45-year-old father, who had remained in this country, was also arrested at the airport.
An application for an FGM prevention order had been made by local authorities.

Both parents were taken into custody at a south London police station on suspicion of helping a foreign national to commit FGM overseas, and later released on bail.

Their daughter is temporarily in protective care arranged by the Metropolitan Police.

Both police and parents appeared before family judge Mrs Justice Hogg on Thursday to decide on how the case should proceed.

Zimran Samuel, for the police, told the judge: "Concerns originally arose through the school which indicated a child had told school friends she might be away for some three months from her eighth birthday, the age when it is normal for girls in the Somali community to be cut."

Mr Samuel said decisions would now have to be made on whether the girl should be placed in local authority care pending further court hearings, or allowed to return to her parents.
He said the police wished to take stock and interview the girl before putting a further statement before the court later this month. The parents, who had so far given "no comment" interviews, would also have the opportunity to respond.

(1st April 2016)
 

 

 


FGM RISK TRIPLES FOR GIRLS AND WOMEN, CDC STUDY FINDS
(The Guardian, dated 15th January 2016 author Amanda Holpuch)

Full article [Option 1]:

The number of women and girls in the United States at risk of female genital mutilation has tripled over the last 25 years, according to a government study released on Thursday.

The last official estimate of how many people were affected by the practice was published in 1990. Since then, the number of women and girls at risk has jumped from 168,000 to 513,000 in 2012, said a highly anticipated study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is unclear how many women and girls in the US have undergone the procedure.
Jaha Dukureh, who has helped lead the US campaign against FGM, said she was happy that the results had finally been published. She launched a campaign for the government to commission such a report in May 2014 with the backing of the Guardian and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
"I'm not really surprised because I've seen these numbers before and it just means that government needs to do more when it comes to education and outreach in these communities," Dukureh said.

Unpublished data from the CDC seen by the Guardian in February 2015 estimated that the amount of women affected had grown to 513,000. And the nonprofit Population Reference Bureau (PRB) said that month that about 507,000 women were affected by the practice.

The US government outlawed FGM in 1996 but some people send their daughters to countries that permit the practice for "vacation cutting", FGM which is also illegal in the US.
Dukureh was mutilated as a child in the Gambia, where she was born. She held a youth summit on the practice there in October 2015. The Gambia president Yahya Jammeh banned the practice the following month.

The CDC said that the increase in women at risk in the US was "wholly a result of rapid growth in the number immigrants" from countries that practice FGM.

And the risk for girls in the US younger than 18 has grown fourfold, said the study.
"It's the 21st century and I think no one should be forced to be go through something like this," Dukureh said. "No child should be forced to undergo this."

Shelby Quast, Americas director of Equality Now, which aims to end the practice worldwide, said that these numbers are an important resource for campaigners to push for policy change.
"We advocated for - and got - an inter-agency working group to address FGM in the US," Quast said in an emailed statement. "But the US needs to continue to step up and take charge. This means implementing the law on FGM more effectively, but that also includes training professionals who come in contact with girls at risk or survivors, including health care workers, teachers and social workers."

The study's authors wrote that the "ultimate goal" of collecting this data "should be to contribute to preventing the practice and providing services to those who have undergone it."
The authors wrote: "By implementing actions to capture information that enhances knowledge on those issues, the United States can more effectively move toward prevention".


(1st February 2016) 

 



FGM COURT ORDERS : A QUIET REVOLUTION IN CHILD PROTECTION
(The Guardian, dated 31st December 2015 author Karen McViegh)

 

Full article [Option 1]:

www.theguardian.com/society/2015/dec/31/fgm-protection-orders-quiet-revolution-child-protection

2015 has ushered in a huge cultural shift in the way communities view the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK, following the introduction of laws aimed at protecting young girls from being subjected to the practice, according to experts.

Cris McCurley, a solicitor in Newcastle who currently has eight FGM protection cases, three where orders are in place, hailed the changes in attitudes from communities where girls would traditionally be cut.

"For concerned mums to go against their communities is massive," said McCurley. "The more public is it the more likely parents are to come forward. Girls can go to their teachers, saying 'I need help'."

This represent a "huge cultural shift", McCurley told the Guardian. Typically, her cases involve a British child with a mother who has been cut herself.

The new FGM measures include confiscating passports or travel documents of girls who authorities suspect are being taken abroad to be cut. Originally intended to begin in October 2015, they were brought forward to ensure protection over the summer holidays, when girls are most at risk because they travel with their families abroad.

Zimran Samuel, of 42 Bedford Row chambers, helped draft new FGM legislation after proposing the idea to MPs last year. Based on laws used to protect children from forced marriage, it provides a civil alternative to criminal prosecution, but crucially carries a five-year prison sentence if breached.

From July to September 2015 there were 1,385 newly recorded cases of FGM in England, latest figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show, 50% of which were in London. Among the cases, there were 17 girls under the age of 18.

"We have more cases brought to the high court in the past few months than we've had in the past 30 years," said Samuel, a specialist in international child law, including FGM, child abduction and forced marriage. "Having very targeted protection is key."

McCurley describes the new orders as putting a "protective bubble wrap" around a child. "It can ensure a child cannot be removed from Britain, it can go to the passport authorities, instructing them not to issue passports, it can be directed against a certain individual."

FGM has been illegal in England and Wales since 1985, but only one prosecution has ever been brought to court. A doctor was accused of carrying out the illegal procedure when stitching a woman, who had previously undergone FGM, after she gave birth at the Whittington hospital, north London, in 2012. He was acquitted amid widespread criticism that the case was ever brought to trial.

In July, three London sisters, aged six, nine and 12, whose father was accused of planning to take two of them to Nigeria to undergo the practice and had allegedly sent ceremonial robes for the purpose, were issued with a protection order that stopped him approaching them and banned any travel abroad.

In August, a 13-year-old pupil from Kent who had been taken to Sudan and left there was successfully brought home after a judge deemed her to be "at real risk" of the practice.

In November, four sisters from the south of England were made subjects of a new FGM protection order, after their mother told authorities she was scared their father planned to take one to Egypt to be cut. Within the family's culture FGM was considered to be an appropriate method to "inhibit sexual urges" in girls, she told the court.

The eight girls are among handful of new cases before the high court, creating what one barrister has described as a quiet revolution in child protection.

Samuel, who has been involved in four FGM protection order cases this year, involving 10 girls, said the Christmas school holidays also presented a danger. "The risk is greater when children travel - summer, Easter and Christmas holidays. It's really important to raise awareness now. Family courts tend to be quite private but some judges have taken the unusual step of allowing press into cases," he said, something that has helped publicise the protection orders.

Samuel said that, unlike forced marriage protection orders introduced in 2007, FGM orders have not had the same level of awareness raising.

"We don't have posters in doctors' surgeries and schools," he said. "The vast bulk of it has been done by campaigners. My main concern as a barrister is that members of the public would know there is now protection that doesn't necessarily involve the full force of the criminal law."

The orders are part of a raft of measures introduced by the government aimed at stopping the practice. In October, a duty on doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers to report any cases of FGM in under-18s came into force, with professionals facing the sack if they fail to do so.

In Britain, an estimated 137,000 women and girls have undergone or are at risk from FGM, though there is some debate about the exact numbers. The practice, illegal in England and Wales, can cause infection, problems in childbirth and even death.

"The majority of my clients don't want to use criminal law," said McCurley. "From a child or teenage girl's perspective, their parents are doing this because of a deeply held belief that it is the right thing to do. They want it to stop, but they don't want their parents to go to prison."

She praised campaigners including Leyla Hussein of Daughters of Eve, and Jasvinder Sanghera of Karma Nirvana.

"People used to say: 'That's their culture.' But these amazing brave women have come forward and said: 'Not in my name'."

(1st January 2016)

 

 


MORE THAN HALF OF NEW FGM CASES OCCURRED IN LONDON
(International Business Times, dated 14th December 2015 author Tom Porter)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.ibtimes.co.uk/more-half-new-fgm-cases-occured-london-government-figures-show-1533309

More than half of all cases of female genital mutilation in England occurred in London, according to new official figures.

According to new Department of Health figures, there were 1,385 reported cases of FGM in England between July and September, with 758 of these recorded in London.

Eight of the victims of the practice were born in the UK, with 93.2% with a known country of birth from eastern, northern or western Africa. The majority of them were from Somalia, with 204 cases recorded.

A website has been set up to help victims and those who think someone they know might be at risk. The Everybody's Business website offers games and interactive videos, and was set up by Rosa, the UK fund for women and girls.

Communities Minister Baroness Williams said: "Women and girls, wherever they are from and whatever their background, have the right to live their life free from violence. Government has been clear, religious leaders have been clear - Female Genital Mutilation has no place in our society and we will not tolerate it.

"These community champions have been on the ground educating people about how they can put an end to this horrific practice. I hope that young people across the country will take the time to visit the Everybody's Business website and find out what they too can do to help."

http://fgm-every-bodys-biz.co.uk

(1st January 2016)

---------------------------------

STUDENT FLASH MOBS HIGHLIGHT NEED FOR EDUCATION ON CHILD MARRIAGE AND FGM
(International Business Times, dated 28th September 2015 author Priyanka Mogul)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.ibtimes.co.uk/london-student-flash-mobs-highlight-need-education-child-marriage-fgm-1521421

Students formed flash mobs in Islington, north London, to call on the government to introduce compulsory education in schools about female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.

The flash mobs took place on 26 and 27 September with students from schools across the boroughs of Hackney and Islington rallied by charity IKWRO (Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation) as part of its #RightToKnow Campaign.

IKWRO has been going into schools across the country and training teachers about the practice of FGM and child marriage, as well as engaging with students on the issue. The aim is to ensure that young people in every school are aware that these practices are illegal, as well as to ensure that they know help is available should it happen to them.

"We're missing out on this really amazing opportunity to reach young people so this campaign is really focusing on getting in schools," said Sara Browne, campaign officer for IKWRO. "The young people we have worked with over the summer have been really passionate and have been saying: 'Yeah, we do want to know about these things and it's ridiculous that we aren't taught about these things that would keep us safe.'"

The students have also been asking people to tweet Nicky Morgan, secretary of state for education, calling on her to make every school safe from FGM, forced marriage and honour-based violence. They now intend to write a letter to Morgan to further push for their demands to be met.

While the Education Select Committee has recommended that PSHE education (personal, social and health education) become compulsory, the #RightToKnow campaigners want to ensure these subjects are covered in there.

Earlier in September, the NHS revealed more than 1,000 cases of FGM had been recorded in England between April and June. Additionally, while the students were participating in the flash mob, another charity called on Ofsted to protect schoolgirls who may be at risk of forced marriage. The calls came from Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of charity Karma Nirvana.

"Education is at the heart of prevention," Sanghera told the Observer. "We would like this abuse to form part of the Ofsted framework as a safeguarding issue. We need inspectors to be trained to identify how schools are safeguarding children at risk of forced marriage."

(1st January 2016)

 



FGM - LEGAL DUTY TO INFORM POLICE COMES INTO FORCE
(BBC News, dated 31st October 2015 author James Gallagher)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-34681057

Doctors, nurses, midwives and teachers are now legally required to report cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) to the police.

Failure to do so will result in disciplinary measures and could ultimately lead to them being barred from working.

The rules apply in England and Wales when girls under 18 say they have been cut or staff recognise the signs.

FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985.

The practice, also known as female circumcision, refers to any procedure that alters or injures the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

In its most severe form, the genitals are cut and stitched closed until the victim is ready to have a baby and then sewn back up again. Proponents believe this keeps women and girls "hygienic, chaste and faithful".

Studies are under way to work out how many are affected - but the figure is thought to be around 137,000 in England and Wales.

The government is committed to ending the "abusive and illegal practice" within a generation.

The new rules say cases should be reported promptly - ideally by the end of the next working day after they are discovered.

Guidance has been drawn up by the NHS, the Department of Health and medical Royal Colleges to help staff understand the new rules.

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: "Healthcare professionals are at the forefront of the fight to end FGM and this new duty is the next step in that fight.

"The tools we are providing will empower NHS staff and support them in strengthening their safeguarding response for our girls who are at risk, and better protect and care for those living with FGM."

Hilary Garratt, the director of nursing at NHS England, said: "NHS England is committed to helping to eradicate FGM, while ensuring that women and children who have been victims receive the treatment and support they need.

"This new guidance will support health professionals to recognise FGM and ensure they report it."

Mandatory reporting is not currently a legal requirement in Scotland but some politicians have been pushing ministers to follow the UK government's lead. In March, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced £220,000 of funding for "community engagement projects, awareness-raising and training and support services".

In June the Northern Ireland Assembly introduced protection orders which prevent travel for young girls thought to be at risk of being taken abroad for FGM procedures.

(1st November 2015)

 

 



TWO WOMEN FGM SUSPECTS FLEE UK WITH "VICTIMS" AND AT-RISK GIRLS
(London Evening Standard, dated 22nd October 2015 author Martin Bentham)

 

Full article [Option 1]:

www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/two-women-fgm-suspects-flee-uk-with-victims-and-atrisk-girls-a3096756.html

Two women arrested by police over accusations of inflicting female genital mutilation have fled Britain with their alleged victims and other at-risk girls in a blow to efforts to secure a landmark first conviction.

They were detained in separate investigations into suspicions that children had been mutilated and that further FGM offences might be committed. Sources say there was strong evidence in both cases.

Police wanted social workers responsible for the girls' care to obtain court orders that would have protected the children from further risk and prevented them from being taken out of the country.

But after insufficient action was taken, both women were left free to flee abroad - taking their alleged victims with them. Each woman also took at least one girl feared to be still at risk of mutilation.

The suspects' disappearance has dismayed police and prosecutors who hoped the cases would lead to the first convictions for FGM.

It has also sparked fears that at least two more girls who could have been protected from mutilation will now be cut.

A source said there is considerable anger at social services' lack of protection for the girls, adding: "These cases are a disastrous failure."

Another insider confirmed that the suspects had left Britain, adding: "Our primary concern is the children's welfare and the risk to them. It is also disappointing because this is another failure to bring a prosecution. There was evidence in both cases."

In the first case an African woman was arrested in Bristol on suspicion she had mutilation carried out on one or more girls. Police evidence is understood to indicate that the procedure, illegal in Britain since 1985, might have been carried out here.

At least one other girl was also thought to be at risk from the woman. But attempts by police to persuade local social services to obtain a court FGM protection order were rebuffed.

An order would have allowed travel restrictions to be imposed and girls at risk of mutilation to be either taken into care or placed on watch lists to prevent them from being taken out of the UK.

The failure to take action meant the woman retained her passport and access to both her victim and the children allegedly still at risk of mutilation.

She has now left Britain and is not expected to return to answer police bail imposed over the FGM allegations.

Sources say there is little prospect of charges against the woman in her absence.

Three other people arrested over the alleged FGM offences remain under investigation.

But insiders say the disappearance of the woman - the main suspect in the case - has seriously undermined the likelihood of successful charges being brought against them.

Avon and Somerset Police, the force responsible for the case, confirmed that three men and a woman had been arrested over an "FGM investigation in Bristol" relating to the "welfare of three young children" but admitted that the woman had since left the country.

"We're aware one of those arrested has left the UK with the children and we're working closely with all relevant partner agencies to facilitate their return to the UK," it said.

Similar failings allowed the second suspect to escape. She is from the Middle East and was arrested in Newcastle over an allegation that she had also inflicted mutilation on two children.

The youngsters were taken into care but released after the city's children's social care department decided that FGM had already been inflicted on both and that "it was unlikely there were any further risks of harm" to either girl.

Prosecutors and police are understood to have believed the younger child was at risk of further mutilation and needed continuing protection.

Police confiscated the woman's passport but she obtained a replacement from her home country.

UK Border Force staff stopped her but in the absence of any further action by social workers she was left free to depart.

She has since gone to the Middle East with both girls, including the toddler feared to be at risk of further mutilation.

Prosecutors have decided to take "no further action" over the case as a result. One factor was the potential difficulty in proving where mutilation took place and whether the girls were resident here at the time. But sources have told the Standard the main reason was that the suspect had left Britain and was regarded as highly unlikely to return.

FGM was made illegal in Britain in 1985. Further legislation in 2003 and this year has strengthened the prohibition to stop girls being taken abroad to be cut. Despite this, only two people have been prosecuted for FGM offences. Both were acquitted this year.

(1st November 2015)

 



A NEW APP TO TACKLE FGM
(Coventry University Website, July 2015)

 Full article :

www.coventry.ac.uk/research/research-directories/spotlight-on/2015/coventry-university-launches-new-app-to-tackle-fgm/

Researchers from the Centre for Communities and Social Justice (CCSJ) at Coventry University have created a new app, endorsed by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), to help protect young girls and women from female genital mutilation (FGM).

Funded by donations from the Pamela Barlow, Eleanor Rathbone and 1970 Charitable Trusts, the free to use app called 'Petals' is the first of its kind to be developed in the UK and was demonstrated at a special launch events in London and Coventry in July 2015. Research and development of the 'Petals' app was led by Professor Hazel Barrett and her team.

Female genital mutilation, which is sometimes called female genital cutting, female circumcision or sunna refers to procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice has been illegal in the UK since 1985 but is a growing problem across the country.

Coventry City Council has been working with health professionals, members of affected communities and other stakeholders on a formal pledge to end the practice within the city and its surrounding areas. It is the first and only local government authority to take an integrated approach to tackling FGM and a full council motion to condemn the practice has been supported.

The app, which works across most smartphones, tablets and laptops via an internet browser, is aimed primarily at young girls living in affected communities and at risk from FGM. But it can also be used as an educational tool to teach young people and others the facts and realities of FGM.

With the school summer holidays approaching, the app's launch is timely as this is the point in the year when girls at risk may be sent to their heritage countries for the procedure to be carried out or cut here in the UK. Out of contact from their teachers and classmates for several weeks, by the time they return to school the outward signs that they have suffered FGM may be less apparent.

Link to Petals : http://petals.coventry.ac.uk/

(10th October 2015)



NHS UNCOVERS 1000 FGM CASES IN ENGLAND
(BBC News, dated 23rd September 2015)

Full article : www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-34335853

There were more than 1,000 newly recorded cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) in England between April and June, NHS data reveals.

For the first time the official figures were expanded to include information from general practices and mental health trusts.

They show nine cases where girls were under 18 when first seen.

FGM is illegal across the UK and it is illegal to take someone abroad for this purpose.

Not all cases would have taken place in the past three months - some may have been picked up at routine appointments for other health issues many years after the incidents occurred.

And the report did not look at whether the cases took place in the UK or abroad.

Sometimes called female circumcision, FGM refers to procedures including the partial or total removal of external female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

It can cause issues including severe pain, infections, pregnancy complications and even death.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre figures covered cases of FGM reported by the women and girls themselves and others recorded by clinicians during appointments.

'Global dimension'

Experts say figures on the practice have been patchy and it is difficult to know exactly how many women have been affected by FGM.

But the government has plans to make data collection mandatory across many areas of the NHS.

Tanya Barron of the charity Plan UK said global action was needed to tackle this problem.

She added: "It's shocking to see the extent of FGM here in the UK.

"We've seen hugely increased attention on this problem in the past few years and we are now waking up to the scale of this terrible practice.

"What we must always keep in mind though is that this is not specifically a British problem.

"FGM is a practice with an inherently global dimension.

"And while it's vital that we do everything we can to stop FGM here in the UK, as well as to support the girls and women affected by it, the reality is that this practice won't end in the UK until it is ended worldwide."

Analysis : What do the numbers show ?

Smitha Mundasad, health reporter

Charities say it is very difficult to know exactly how many women have been affected by FGM in the UK.

And many of the cases recorded by the NHS in the last three months will have not have taken place recently.

There are a number of reasons women or girls do not talk openly about FGM soon after it happens - including the fear of stigma or getting people into trouble.

Some incidents may come to light years later - for example at a hospital appointment for an unrelated issue or during an antenatal visit.

What is new is a concerted push to collect more data on FGM.

In the last few months clinicians in acute hospitals in England have been told it is mandatory to record any cases they see - whether they were previously recorded by NHS systems or not.

And in October this reporting will be mandatory for GP practices and mental health specialists as well.

Many practices have already started collating these figures and some have been used in this latest report.

For these reasons we can't compare any previous figures and so experts don't yet have a sense of what the trend is.

But there are many experts who hope that more data will help them better understand the scale of the problem.

(10th October 2015)

 



FGM SURVIVOR TO TEACH SCHOOLS AND COUNCILS DANGERS OF CUTTING
(London Evening Standard, dated 27th August 2015 author Martin Bentham)

 

Full article [Option 1]:

www.standard.co.uk/news/london/fgm-survivor-to-teach-schools-and-councils-dangers-of-cutting-a2922021.html

A former child victim of female genital mutilation is to help London schools teach pupils about the risks of being cut as part of a drive to prevent violence against women and girls.

Hibo Wardere, who was mutilated in Somalia at the age of six, will also train council officials how to spot girls in danger and provide information to men and others about the lasting harm that cutting can cause.

She will also work with a specialist to offer psychological support to victims of FGM and those who are potentially at risk from the barbaric practice.

Ms Wardere will carry out her work as an "FGM community mediator" as part of a new Waltham Forest team set up under a City Hall project for tackling "harmful practices" in the capital.

Ms Wardere said increasing public awareness of FGM was "key to helping put a stop to it" and that the initiative would help to protect girls.

She added: "I believe there's much we can do to educate different age groups and communities and better protect and support those at risk. It's vital to ensure the right kind of support is available, because the psychological consequences of FGM are severe."

Liaquat Ali, Waltham Forest council's spokesman on community safety and cohesion, said the authority was determined to "end harmful practices" such as FGM. Its team set up to combat violence against women and girls will also tackle domestic and sexual abuse, hate crime, child sexual exploitation, forced marriage and honour-based violence.

The team includes a police officer and six "domestic violence advocates" who will seek to support victims of such abuse and their families.

The pilot scheme involves similar efforts in Tower Hamlets, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham.

(1st September 2015)


AIRPORT OFFICERS FIGHT TO SAVE BRITISH GIRLS FROM FGM AND FORCED MARRIAGE
(The Telegraph, dated 31st August 2015 author Radhika Sanghani)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11830366/FGM-forced-marriage-trafficking-UK-airports-fight-to-save-girls.html

For thousands of girls around the world, it is currently 'cutting season' - the time of the year when they are subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). Sitting here in civilised wealthy Britain - it's an unthinkable act of barbarity.

And yet it's also 'cutting season' for a shocking number of British girls.

In England and Wales, there are 137,000 women and girls who have been affected by FGM, and it's estimated that 20,000 are thought to be at risk each year.

Typically, young girls are taken to countries where FGM is carried out in the name of culture, tradition and religion - normally during their summer holidays from school by parents or guardians.

Teachers and authorities often only discover what's happened when it is too late.

But now the Government is trying to crack down on these families and prevent young girls and women from being subjected to the awful brutality of FGM - where their genitalia is cut or removed.

Instead of relying on schools and health professionals to tackle the problem, the Home Office now has trained officials on the frontline at airports.

Border Force officers at Heathrow and Gatwick airports - England's largest - this bank holiday weekend are looking out for potential victims of FGM, forced marriage and trafficking - as they have been doing all summer. If anyone looks suspicious, or as though they are in a vulnerable position, they'll be questioned sensitively.

It means that anyone thought to be a victim will immediately receive help, whether that's medical or legal, and any potential perpetrators can be prevent from flying and arrested.

Already two people have been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to commit FGM.

"I think it's a great idea," says Nimko Ali, a prolific FGM campaigner and survivor.

She underwent FGM at the age of seven when her family took her back to Somalia on holiday. She explains that they didn't go with that in mind, but war broke out when they were there, and "it was this random thing that happened in the middle of a war".

Border Force officers wouldn't have been able to stop her case of FGM had this policy been around back when she was a child, but she says they could have been incredibly beneficial on her return.

"If I was seven years old coming home and someone had asked if something had happened to me, I would have easily disclosed it," she says. "When I came home, I really wanted to have a conversation but no one wanted to talk about it.

"For me it was the lack of information that was really the most hurtful."

One of the only problems she predicts though is that this approach could turn into racial profiling, where staff just question people from Africa, or other Asian countries that are known to carry out FGM.

Shaheen Hashmat, who escaped forced marriage aged 12, agrees this is an issue. "With forced marriage more than half of victims in the UK are Pakistani so there is a disproportionate amount of one ethnicity.

"That should be a factor but definitely not the only factor. It needs to be part of a bigger picture."

However, as Ali adds: "There is some truth in stereotypes so you can't really be upset [if you are questioned and from a certain backgroun].. If 99 per cent of Somalian women have had FGM it's likely people will ask those people who look typically Somalian. I'm hoping the more we have these conversations in schools and society, girls can come forward and we don't have to start using terrible indicators like race.

Until then that's all we have to go on.

"If I was at the airport with my young niece and someone said are you planning to take her to have FGM, I'd say no but, thanks for asking. Thanks for not thinking there are cultural barriers and you can't ask."

Ashley Robinson, Border Force assistant director at Heathrow, says they are trying to move away from the habits of authorities in the past, where they were so frightened of offending cultures that they wouldn't question inappropriate behaviour.

"The important thing is to recognise there are cultural barriers and not being afraid to challenge it," he stresses. "We have to recognise there are different things in the world. We make it clear that in the UK, FGM is child abuse."

Robinson explains it's not just about race or ethnicity at all - there are particular signs that they look out for when deciding who to question.

It could be someone having no belongings, being very quiet or not being in control of their passport. Or somebody dressing differently to group, being treated differently or just the scenario of a young girl travelling with parents outside of school holidays.

"Not everyone recognises themselves as a victim," he sys. "So we're looking for a sign."

When I went down to see the scheme in practice, staff simulated an example of what a questioning might look life. A woman of Asian origin was travelling with an Albanian man, who wouldn't let her speak and answered all the questions directed at her.

In a real situation, she would then be taken for further private talks, and the police would be called if she was genuinely believed to be a victim. Her partner could be interrogated, detained and stopped from leaving the county by Border Force staff.

Robinson says that a number of people have been questioned since the scheme began earlier this summer, and most are aware that FGM is illegal in the UK so try and hide it. Others - who are unaware of the law - try and justify the barbaric practice.

But he stresses that the focus is always on the victim. If there is not enough evidence to detain the perpetrator or to stop them flying, the potential victim can be placed on an 'at risk' register.

It means that staff will look at their journey home, and question them when they return back to the UK.

Hashmat, whose relatives were forced into marriage, thinks the principle is a good one - but that there needs to be a focus on what the potential victim wants.

"When I escaped my forced marriage, I was asked several times, is this what you want to do? I had to time to think about it. That might be hard in an airport setting, but it's really important."

Robinson says that is a priority: "We're always thinking about the victim first," he says. And no matter how hard it might be to search for victims amongst millions of passengers, it's something these officers stress they are committed to doing.

Now all that remains to be seen is just how many people they can prevent from becoming victims, or how many survivors they can offer support to.

As Ali says: "You can't always prevent FGM [or forced marriage] but you can still help the girls who have had it."

(1st September 2015)


POLICE INVESTIGATE FGM ON A BABY
(London Evening Standard, dated 31st July 2015 author Martin Bentham)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/police-investigate-fgm-on-a-baby-10430306.html

Scotland Yard is investigating the alleged female genital mutilation of  a baby from London.
 
The girl, a Briton of Malaysian descent, is understood to have been taken abroad and subjected to "type 4" FGM when only a few months old.

Her family is thought to have believed that the procedure - which involves pricking the clitoris and is known as circumcision in Malaysia - was legal. But it is a criminal offence in this country, and they are being investigated after their daughter's injury was reported to police by medical staff.

The case, which comes at the start of the "cutting season" when girls have traditionally been taken abroad for FGM in their parents' home countries, has prompted renewed fears that some families are breaking British law out of ignorance. Malaysia and Somalia are among the countries in which "type 4" practices illegal here are common and not regarded as FGM.

Detective Chief Superintendent Keith Niven, head of Scotland Yard's rape and child abuse command, declined to comment on the new investigation, but warned that ignorance of the law was not an excuse.

"If anybody thinks it might be legal overseas and they can go there to get it done and they will not be prosecuted here, they are wrong.

"If they have a footprint in this country they are vulnerable to the law. We will seek to prosecute whatever type of FGM it is." He said police still met parents at airports who were unaware of the law, and added: "There is some confusion, despite all the publicity. We are saying it's not ok. It's a strong  message we want to get out because now is the season."

The mutilation of the girl in the new London case is thought to have occurred several years ago in Malaysia, although the child is still under five. A source said her family had been shocked to learn they might face police action, as they are "very law-abiding".

Police investigated a similar incident involving the cutting of another London baby of Malaysian origin, but there was no prosecution.

(8th August 2015)



FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION : THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT ? REALLY ?
(The Telegraph, dated 7th July 2015 author Rosa Prince)

 

Full article [Option 1]:

www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11723440/Female-genital-mutilation-theres-an-app-for-that-Really.html

Summer is cutting season.

During the next two months, thousands of young girls will be subjected to torture, their genitals mutilated through excruciating, traumatic procedures in the name of tradition, the long school holidays used as cover to hide the crime from teachers and friends outside the community.

If seems extraordinary that children can be abused in this way in 21st century Britain, it is even more outrageous that despite being illegal since the Female Circumcision Act of 1985, there have yet to be any successful prosecutions of those responsible.

Not to worry - there's now there's an app for that. Really?

Petals website : http://petals.coventry.ac.uk/#a

Created by researchers at the University of Coventry and launched today with support from Women's Minister Nicky Morgan, the new app and website "Petals" may appear on the surface to be a frivolous gimmick to tackle such a grimly pressing problem as Female Genital Mutilation.

Petals website : http://petals.coventry.ac.uk/#a

Last year, at the Girl Summit, David Cameron called for an end to "the cruel, barbaric practice" of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) "in this generation".

Yet the numbers continue to rise. According to the Home Office Select Committee, an estimated 170,000 women and girls living in the UK have been subjected to FGM, many after either being taken abroad or having undergone it before they moved to Britain. Another 65,000 young girls are thought to be at risk.

While FGM is most common between the ages of eight and 13, the most dangerous time is at 11, during the period between primary and secondary school, when the abusers can take advantage of the holidays to give the child time to recover physically, and at a stage in her life when she is not under the eye of a familiar teacher who could spot the signs of the psychological trauma she has gone through.

NHS figures show that 528 girls were treated in hospital for FGM-related injuries in England in March of this year alone. That figure is expected to soar over the holidays.

Professor Hazel Barrett from Coventry University's Centre for Communities and Social Justice, which created the app, said it was targeted at the closed communities where FGM can thrive.

She told me that girls may not know what FGM is until it is too late, and at the point when they are about to be subjected to it may be told that it is necessary for religious and cultural reasons.

The app is aimed both at them and their brothers and friends who, it is hoped, will use it to find out how to call for help if they or someone they know is at risk.

Boys are crucial, according to Prof Barrett. By catching them early it is hoped that they will grow up to become fathers who find it unacceptable to put their own daughters through FGM.

The app's creators believe that one of the best ways to target youngsters of both sexes is via new technology. It's a clever, modern way of tackling a primitive, barbaric practice.

The website has special features to enable it to be kept hidden from prying eyes. Shaking a smartphone makes the app disappear, it leaves no history in the browser if accessed on a computer and there are no pop-up windows, meaning it can be shut down quickly if needed.

"The first thing we had to think about when putting the app together was the safety of those using it," Prof Barrett said. "We wanted to make sure that these young people could look at the app in privacy and secrecy."

Users are given access to immediate help on the first page, with links to the NSPCC and other help groups. Information about what FGM is and why it is so damaging to those put through it is also available along with example scenarios, a glossary, and video testimonies from survivors.

To avoid scaring off girls from what are usually highly conservative communities, there are no gory photographs, no diagrams of genitalia, and even the phrase FGM has deliberately been kept out of the app's name in favour of the less challenging, and more euphemistic, "Petals."

And it uses a tiny amount of data - a key factor for teenagers.

The app's launch was addressed by Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary who is also Minister for Women and Equalities but who, it is generally agreed, pays significantly more attention to the first part of her title than the latter.

Privately, FGM campaigners complain that while the Government has been supportive in raising the profile of FGM, and in creating new laws including orders making it a criminal offence to take a child abroad to carry out FGM and a requirement on professionals to report instances, ministers have yet to put their money where their mouth is.

The app was developed with charitable donations amounting to just £8,000 after the Department of Education, under Mrs Morgan's predecessor, Michael Gove, refused to grant it public funds.

There is no budget for promoting the app, leaving its creators hoping, somewhat optimistically, that it will come to the attention of those who need it via the vagaries of social media. Prof Barrett: "We are hoping that this app will be marketed by young people themselves through social media. I'll be upfront, we don't have any money for marketing."

Schools are encouraged to tell children about the app, but the minister has not committed any funds to ensuring teachers find out about it in the first place.

Privately, FGM campaigners say Mrs Morgan does seem more switched on to the cause than Mr Gove, and she has one of the brightest of the new crop of women ministers, Karen Bradley, supporting her in the post of Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation.

Let's hope so. As Mrs Morgan said: "We have a duty to stop this happening in the first place. Cultural sensitivities can never be an excuse for FGM."

Petals website : http://petals.coventry.ac.uk/#a

(1st September 2015)


JUDGE IMPOSES BAN ON SADIST FATHER IN FIRST LONDON FGM PROTECTION ORDER
(London Evening Standard, dated 30th July 2015 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk [Option 1]

A Father has been banned by a court from going to his Daughters London home to prevent him taking them to Nigeria to suffer th "terrible scourge" of female genital mutilation.

In a landmark ruling, thought to be the first of its type in the capital, Mr Justice Holman also banned the Father from encouraging others to harm the tree girls and ordered him not to go within 100 metres of their school.

The orders were issued at the High Court after the girls Mother said the Nigerian father was a sadist who wanted th children - aged 6, nine and 12 - to be cut in th school summer holidays.

She also told the court the Father has provided ceremonial robes for use during his Daughters mutilation and is angry that the eldest has already missed the traditional time to undergo FGM.

The Judge issued an FGM protection order, using laws that came into effect on 17th July, after concluding there was potentially "a very high risk" to one or more of the "three vulnerable girls".

His rulin came after the Mother - a Nigerian who he said "admits to being an overstayer" - told of her own mutilation when aged 20, just before her forced marriage to the girls Father.

She told the court in a statement: " just before the wedding the respondensts family forced me to undergo gential circumcision. My clitoris and labia were removed. I did not want the procedure but had no choce. I have since suffered terrible pain from my injury. It has never properly healed. After intercourse the wound normally opens again".

Mr Justice Holman said her account came from "first hand experience of the terrible scourge and damage inflicted upon females" by FGM.

The Mother had also told how the Father, from whomshe is now divorced, "beat her and the children using weapons such as belts" when in London.

She said her ex-husband "viewed the forced genital mutilation of our three Daughters as inevitable and necessary" and had sent "ceremonial robes from Nigeria in preparation" this year. "He requested the children's umbilical cords and first teeth to be used as part of the ceremony," she went on.

The Judge said a further hearing will be held to allow the Father, who was not present or represented, to contest the allegations.

But he added it was "patently vital that for the time being these children are not allowed to be removed from England and Wales - and in particular to Nigeria".

He said: "It is clear there is potentially a very high risk of this procedure being inflicted on one or more of these girls if they are not protected and made safe to the maximum extent possible.

(1st August 2015)


FIFTY GIRLS TAKEN FROM UK TO SOMALIA FOR FGM
(BBC News, dated 17th July 2015)

Full article : www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33572428

Reports that at least 50 girls were taken from the UK to Somalia for female genital mutilation are being investigated by Scotland Yard.

The Liberal Democrat peer Lady Tonge contacted the Metropolitan Police after spotting a large group of girls on a flight from Heathrow last Saturday.

The girls were said to be aged 11 to 17 and with their mothers or grandmothers.

It comes as Bedfordshire Police secured the UK's first FGM protection order, preventing two girls from going abroad.

The Metropolitan Police said officers from the Specialist Crime and Operations Command were investigating Lady Tonge's report.

###'Scattering of grannies'

Speaking to the BBC, Lady Tonge said the girls spoke English and were of Somali origin.

"It was just odd," she said. "They were young girls and mothers and a scattering of grannies."

They were on an Ethiopian Airlines flight to Addis Ababa on 11 July and according to the Lib Dem peer transferred onto a plane to Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

Lady Tonge, along with the Labour MP for Halifax, Holly Lynch, was on a trip to the Financial Development Conference in Addis Ababa.

FGM, also termed female circumcision, is illegal in the UK. It refers to any procedure that alters or injures the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

It is a painful ritual carried out on women and young girls from certain communities from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Lady Tonge said that both she and Ms Lynch felt the presence of so many girls at the start of the summer holidays was "suspicious", given that it was the start of the so-called "cutting season" when FGM is carried out, and she decided to raise the alarm on her return to the UK.

Scotland Yard confirmed that police had been called by a "woman concerned about a large number of girls on a flight from Heathrow to Ethiopia on 11 July whom she believed were at risk of FGM".

That confirmation from the Met came after Bedfordshire Police said it secured a protection court order on the day new powers came into effect.

The civil legislation allows officials to seize passports from people they suspect are planning on taking girls overseas for FGM, and breaching an order is a criminal offence.

The move prevents two girls being taken to Africa, Bedfordshire Police said.

The force said it is estimated that more than 20,000 girls under the age of 15 in the UK are at risk of FGM each year, although very few cases are reported.

Det Ch Insp Nick Bellingham, from Bedfordshire Police's Public Protection Unit, said: "With schools breaking up for the summer holidays today, we will continue to use this legislation where needed to prevent young girls who we believe may be at risk from being taken out of the country.

"This is child abuse, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that children are kept safe and that those responsible are caught."Aneeta Prem, founder of women's charity Freedom Charity, said the use of a protection order was a positive step.

But she warned that the authorities must also look out for "cutters" - people who carry out FGM "for as little as £200 a girl" - entering the UK.

"We can't be politically sensitive. Girls who are mutilated in this way suffer a lifetime of scarring and permanent damage," she said.

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2005 in Scotland states that FGM is illegal unless it is necessary for health reasons.

The law states that is also illegal to arrange for a UK national to be taken overseas to undergo FGM.

The order secured by Bedfordshire Police, which can be made by courts in England and Wales, was introduced under the Serious Crime Act 2015.

Equalities and Justice Minister Caroline Dinenage said the protection orders have been "fast-tracked... to make sure women and girls facing the awful threat of FGM can be kept safe".

"These orders mean girls and the communities around them now know they will have somewhere to turn, that the law is on their side and help is out there.

"The government is committed to ending FGM."

(1st August 2015)


POLICE OBTAIN FIRST FGM PROTECTION ORDER
(The Guardian, dated 17th July 2015 author Kevin Rawlinson)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jul/17/police-obtain-first-fgm-protection-order

Police have secured the UK's first ever female genital mutilation protection order, which bans travel by people who are believed to be at risk of FGM.

As some schools broke up for the summer holidays on Friday, Bedfordshire police seized the passports of two young girls who it was thought could be taken to Africa to be mutilated.

Police obtained the court order under a new power which came into force on Friday. Breaching it is a criminal offence.

DCI Nick Bellingham, from Bedfordshire police's public protection unit, said: "This legislation is a really positive step forward in the fight against this horrific, cruel crime, and we're pleased to have been able to enforce it today by issuing a protection order.

"With schools breaking up for the summer holidays today, we will continue to use this legislation where needed to prevent young girls who we believe may be at risk from being taken out of the country.

"This is child abuse, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that children are kept safe and that those responsible are caught," said Bellingham.

FGM is a procedure that partially or completely removes the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Bedfordshire police said it was estimated that more than 20,000 girls younger than 15 in the UK were at risk of FGM each year, but very few cases are reported.

Signs that FGM may have been inflicted on a child include a lengthy absence from school, health problems including bladder and menstrual trouble, complaints about pain between their legs, and behavioural changes, police said.

A child may also talk about being taken away for a special ceremony, or say that something has happened to them which they are not allowed to talk about.

Bellingham said: "A change in law isn't in itself enough to end this barbaric practice. I'd urge anyone who suspects that a child is at risk of FGM to contact police immediately."

The change in the law was announced October last year, amid the Guardian's End FGM campaign.

Besides the protection orders, the Serious Crime Act 2015 allows judges to remand people in custody, order mandatory medical checks and instruct girls believed to be at risk of the practice to live at a particular address so that authorities can check whether they have been subjected to it. Victims are also given lifelong anonymity.

Speaking at the time, the justice minister Mike Penning said: "We are introducing an unprecedented package of measures to strengthen protection for victims, encourage them to report the crime to the police and get support.

"We also want to prosecute those who knowingly let this terrible abuse happen to children they are responsible for. We know that legislation alone cannot eradicate this unacceptable practice. But it is important that we change the law where necessary."

Equalities and justice minister Caroline Dinenage said: "We have fast-tracked these protection orders to make sure women and girls facing the awful threat of FGM can be kept safe.

"I am pleased that authorities are acting so quickly to use the powers. These orders mean girls and the communities around them now know they will have somewhere to turn, that the law is on their side and help is out there.

"The government is committed to ending FGM. We will not stop until this horrific practice is stamped out."

Separately, a Scotland Yard spokesman said that officers from the specialist crime and operations command were looking to reports that a large number of girls on a flight from Heathrow to Ethiopia on 11 July may have been at risk of FGM.

(1st August 2015)


FGM "CUTTERS" TO BE BANNED FROM BRITAIN AS NEW LAW COMES INTO FORCE
(London Evening Standard, dated 17th July 2015 author Martin Bentham)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/fgm-cutters-to-be-banned-from-britain-as-new-law-comes-into-force-10396159.html?origin=internalSearch

Courts will be able to stop suspected overseas "cutters" from coming to Britain under a law that comes into force today to protect girls from female genital mutilation.

The legislation, which permits "FGM protection orders" to be issued for the first time, will also allow passports to be seized from people who want to take girls abroad for mutilation. Orders barring family members from conspiring or encouraging others to commit mutilation will also be available to the courts under the new powers.

The initial restrictions will be imposed using civil powers, but breach of an order will be a criminal offence carrying a potential prison sentence of up to five years.

Announcing the launch of the new powers today, justice minister Caroline Dinenage said that they would help the Government to stop the "barbaric" mutilation of girls.

"Protection orders are an extremely important step in making sure young women and girls who face the threat of FGM are kept safe," she said.

"These girls and the communities around them now know that the law is on their side and help is out there. We will not stop until this horrific practice is stamped out."

Those who can apply to the courts for the protection orders include teachers, doctors, local authorities and even members of the public who fear that a girl is at risk.

The courts will decide whether sufficient evidence exists and be able to impose an order in any case where the danger is judged to be real.

Specific powers under the legislation will allow anyone suspected of wanting to bringing a "cutter" to Britain to be banned from doing so.

The measure reflects the police belief that some mutilation is being carried out in Britain and is intended to stop families enlisting the help of women from countries where the practice remains prevalent.

The power to confiscate passports - which could also be used to seize a potential victim's passport - is aimed at preventing travel for mutilation in the opposite direction, under which British girls are taken abroad to be cut.

The new FGM protection orders are modelled on the existing forced marriage protection orders.

Figures show that 860 of these have been issued so far to prevent young women in Britain being taken overseas to be married against their will.

(1st August 2015)


DOCTORS WARNING OVER GIRLS TAKEN ABROAD TO UNDERGO FGM
(Leicester Mercury, dated 6th July 2015 author Cathy Buss)

Full article [Option 1]:


A doctor has launched a film urging people to alert authorities if they suspect a girl is likely to be subjected to genital mutilation.
Dr Sudhir Sethi, a community paediatrician, is urging people across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, fears that with the long summer holidays about to begin, many young girls will be taken abroad and forced to undergo the procedure, known as FGM or female circumcision.
FGM is any procedure which involves the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs, for non-medical reasons.
All types of FGM have been illegal in the UK since the 1985 Female Circumcision Prohibition Act.
Dr Sudhir Sethi, the city and counties' designated doctor for safeguarding children, said: "We have sizeable communities here who may be at risk from FGM.
"From my perspective, it is the violation of the rights of a child to be protected from any form of torture, inhumane or degrading treatment."
He urged anyone who suspects a girl is a potential victim of FGM to alert the police or council.
Dr Sethi said: "The signs can be very subtle.
"The girl might simply say she is going on a long holiday, and might simply say there is going to be a great celebration or a special event - or she may say she is going and will return as a 'proper woman'.
"That's all we will get.
"If people act and protect one child, they will potentially be protecting many children in that child's family, community and extended family."
The hard-hitting film has been launched to spell out the dangers of FGM.
It is estimated that 10 per cent of FGM victims die as a result of the procedure and as many as one in four suffer recurrent problems.
Effects of the procedure include severe pain and shock, broken limbs from being held down, infection, increased risk of HIV/AIDS, urine retention and fatal haemorrhaging.
FGM can also lead to uterus, vaginal and pelvic infections and cysts as well as infertility along with pregnancy and childbirth complications.
It can also lead to longer term psychological problems and depression.

For more information on FGM visit:

(6th July 2015)


OVER 600 NEW VICTIMS OF FGM IDENTIFIED IN THE WEST MIDLANDS IN SEVEN MONTHS
(The Independent, dated 22nd June 2015 author Louis Dore)


Full article [Option 1]:

More than 600 new victims of female genital mutilation have been identified in the West Midlands in seven months.

A report from the West Midlands Police and Crime Panel said that "official statistics from acute hospitals in the seven districts show that between September 2014 and March 2015 there were 632 newly identified cases of women and girls in the West Midlands who have undergone FGM."
Earlier estimates in 2007 were that 2 per cent of births in Birmingham were to mothers with FGM. Overall, no information is available on the numbers of West Midlands girls who have been cut.
Between January and November in 2014, 118 cases were referred to the West Midlands force. The panel have said that a new task force to tackle mutilation was being launched.
The report said: "There is inadequate evidence about whether the practice is performed in the UK.
"Further work needs to be undertaken to ascertain whether or not there are cutters based or working in the West Midlands.
"Building positive relationships with residents from FGM-practising communities is key to this."
There is now mandatory reporting by health services of the number of women they have seen with FGM.
The panel concluded that a regional task force would ensure "better co-ordination of agencies" to eradicate the practice which has been illegal for 30 years.
The report said: "We call upon all relevant authorities, including those involved in law enforcement, the justice system and public health, to do everything in their power to protect young girls from this life-endangering, health-threatening crime."
There had been no reports of mutilation in the area to West Midlands Police but there had been some intelligence suggesting girls "are brought to Birmingham to be cut."
It is estimated that 170,000 women and girls are living with FGM in the UK, and it is estimated 65,000 girls aged 13 and under are at risk of FGM in the UK.

(1st July 2015)


DAVID CAMERON ORDERS CRACKDOWN ON SUMMER SURGE OF FGM CASES
(The Guardian, dated 13th June 2015 author Toby Helm)


Full article [Option 1]:

New laws aimed at preventing young girls being taken abroad to undergo female genital mutilation are to be fast-tracked within weeks, amid fears that the number of cases could soar during the summer holidays.
David Cameron has ordered ministers to rush through measures before schools break up next month.
The measures will enable local authorities, social workers or police to apply directly to courts to ensure that any individual they suspect of trying to take someone abroad for FGM will have to surrender their passport and other travel documents with immediate effect.
The plan had been to introduce new FGM "protection orders" in parliament later in the year, but the prime minister and senior members of the cabinet, including home secretary Theresa May, decided greater urgency was necessary.
Anyone who breaches such an order would be guilty of an offence carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Girls are thought to be at particular risk of FGM during the summer holidays, when they are most likely to be taken abroad for the mutilation to be carried out.
Cameron told the Observer: "Female genital mutilation is a cruel and barbaric practice. At last year's global summit in London, I said we should not rest until this abhorrent practice is stopped everywhere. But the fact that it is happening right here, to young women and girls in our own country, sickens and appals me. These new orders will help in the fight against this horrific abuse."
Experts, who welcomed the latest government action, say those organising for girls or women to undergo FGM overseas often choose the summer holidays because they believe those subjected to mutilation will have a better chance of recovering from the physical effects and are therefore more likely to avoid suspicion on return.
The moves, to be introduced through statutory instruments in parliament, follow the release of figures showing that 578 girls were treated for FGM in England in March - a number that campaigners called the "tip of the iceberg". This took the total of identified cases, compiled by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, to 3,963 since data was first collected last September. Sixty of these cases involved girls under 18.
Global campaigns to stop FGM have risen to the top of its agenda since last year, after the Guardian and other organisations launched campaigns to highlight the extent of the practice. A Guardian petition pressured the Department for Education into writing to all schools about its dangers and the abuse of human rights involved.
Equality Now, a global campaigning organisation for women's human rights, estimates that 137,000 women and girls living in England and Wales have been affected by FGM.
The practice involves the partial or total removal or injury of the external female genitalia and is seen by some cultures as a way to reduce libido, thereby protecting their virginity before marriage and increasing the chances of marital fidelity. The World Health Organisation estimates that globally 100-140 million women have undergone some form of FGM.
Ministers say the FGM protection orders are similar to forced marriage protection orders which it is believed have prevented more than 800 women resident in the UK from being subjected to forced marriages since they were introduced in 2007.
They say the initiative builds on a series of measures to combat FGM's use on women resident in this country and across the world.
The UK is the biggest international donor to efforts aimed at tackling FGM, investing up to £35m over five years
The practice was banned in the UK in 1985. The law was strengthened in 2003 to prevent children travelling to undergo FGM abroad, although there has yet to be a successful prosecution.
Mary Wandia, FGM programme manager for Equality Now, said: "It is fantastic that the UK is continuing to ensure that FGM is urgently treated as a human rights violation.
"We hope that the UK can become a model for other countries in terms of ending FGM, but psychological, emotional and health support is still urgently needed for survivors."
John Cameron, of the NSPCC, also welcomed the move as a big step forward, but said more needed to be done to encourage people to report cases where they believed FGM had taken place or was at risk of taking place.
Cameron said the fact there had still been no successful prosecution was evidence of the scale of the challenge. The high threshold of proof needed to bring prosecutions against those involved in a process surrounded by secrecy meant people had to be even more on the alert: "20,000 children in the UK are still at risk of FGM. The message needs to be given through prosecutions that this is not acceptable," he said.
 
(1st JUly 2015)


GP'S TOLD TO WARN GIRLS FAMILIES THAT FGM IS ILLEGAL
(London Evening Standard, dated 1st June 2015 author Martin Bentham)


Full article [Option 1]:

Doctors will be asked to warn families of girls who are at risk of female genital mutilation that the practice is illegal.

The move is part of a new drive to stop girls being cut, both here and overseas.
The Department of Health will set out the warning in a printed statement included in a new information pack it is sending to each of the 8,000 GP surgeries in the country.
The statement will make clear that FGM is a crime carrying a potential prison sentence. Doctors will be expected to give the statement to adults who attend surgeries with girls vulnerable to the practice.
One aim is to ensure that parents and relatives caring for girls in this country are aware of the law and deter them from inflicting mutilation.
Another is to provide them with a document they can take overseas and use to resist pressure to have their daughters cut.
The pack will also include a document spelling out the legal duties GPs have relating to FGM.
These include how to develop appropriate "safeguarding" measures to protect girls at risk. Examples include referring cases to social services or the police.
The pack also includes a DVD to improve doctors' knowledge of FGM, as well as instructions on how to comply with new mandatory recording rules.
These require doctors to record and submit data to the Department of Health data about patients they treat who have had FGM. This information is designed to help establish a more accurate assessment of the number of victims living in this country.
Jane Ellison, the minister for public health, said the new pack would help GPs to prevent FGM and protect potential victims and others affected by the practice.
She said: "We know GPs are often the first point of contact for survivors and those at risk of FGM, and play a key role in combating this illegal and dangerous practice. This pack has been developed to give doctors the knowledge and resources they need to help us protect girls and care for women who have undergone FGM."
FGM has been illegal in this country since 1985. Further legislation in 2003 made it a crime to carry out mutilation on a British girl overseas. Despite this, there have been no convictions for the offence.

(1st July 2015)

 


FORCING DOCTORS TO REPORT FGM WILL SCARE OFF VICTIMS
(London Evening Standard, dated 28th May 2015 author Rosamund Urwin)


Full article [Option 1]:

New rules which compel doctors to report female genital mutilation to the police could stop women from seeking medical help, a leading gynaecologist warned today.

Janice Rymer, professor of gynaecology at King's College London School of Medicine, told the Evening Standard: "The concern is that pregnant women will hang back, thinking they'll be investigated by the police. These are women who may need help for many reasons, including FGM-related complications around pregnancy."
David Cameron announced at last year's Girl Summit in London that doctors, teachers and social workers would be legally obliged to report FGM if they come across it.
Mandatory reporting was introduced in the Serious Crime Act which received royal assent in March, although a spokesman for the Home Office said that how quickly it could be introduced was still being worked out.
Professor Rymer claimed that mandatory reporting risks damaging doctor-patient relationships and destroying the confidentiality of the consultation.
"In general practice, you have a bond with patients because you come back again and again and again - a real trust builds up," she said.
"Once you have broken that, it's very difficult to get back... GPs are very worried - they have problems with breaking this confidentiality."
Professor Rymer has raised these concerns in next month's British Journal of General Practice in a paper co-authored by Nigel Mathers, professor of primary medical care at the University of Sheffield. The pair argue that mandatory reporting of FGM should be made to a local safeguarding board, rather than police.

(1st June 2015)

 


FGM INCREASE IN ENGLAND "ONLY TIP OF ICEBERG"
(The Guardian, dated 30th April 2015 author Mark Tran)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/30/female-genital-mutilation-england-fgm-girls

Number of girls being treated for FGM rises to 578 in March, as campaigners warn month-on-month increase looks set to continue.

A total of 578 girls were treated for female genital mutilation in England in March in what campaigners said was just the tip of the iceberg. The latest figures, from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, bring the total of identified cases to 3,963 since data began to be collected on FGM in September. Sixty of the newly identified cases reported involved under-18s.

Tackling FGM has risen up the political agenda since last year, after high-profile campaigns gained public support. A Guardian petition saw the Department for Education write to schools about the dangers of FGM, while steps have been taken by the Department of Health and the Home Office to ensure cases are recorded and victims are better supported.

"Not surprisingly, as more FGM survivors access healthcare, we see a continued increase in the official figures," Mary Wandia, FGM programme manager at Equality Now, said. "However, this number is still only the tip of the iceberg. Last year, we estimated that 137,000 women and girls live in England and Wales who have been affected by FGM. We will continue to see significant month-on-month increases as more women and girls affected by FGM access healthcare. Every month, we are getting a clearer picture of the sheer scale of the issue."

The monthly numbers have been at around the 500-mark, hitting a high of 608 in December. In February, the number of newly identified cases was 528. The latest figures, based on data submitted by 145 of the 160 eligible acute trusts in England, also showed the number of patients being treated for FGM-related conditions and other non-related conditions at 3,164.

FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, with the law being strengthened in 2003 to prevent children travelling from the UK to undergo FGM abroad, but there has yet to be a successful prosecution.

In February, the Crown Prosecution Service came under fire for prosecuting a doctor at Whittington hospital in London. He was found not guilty of performing FGM by suturing a patient to stop her bleeding after childbirth.

Thursday's figures are the last in the monthly series. The next set of "enhanced" data will be published in the autumn and will include data from GPs and mental health trusts. One of the goals of the new data is to provide better evidence for potential prosecutions of those who carry out FGM.

The World Health Organisation estimates up to 140 million girls and women have been subjected to FGM, a traditional practice designed to curb sexuality that involves the partial or total removal of the outer sexual organs. The procedure can cause lifelong physical and psychological complications.

The practice is most common in the western, eastern and north-eastern regions of Africa, in some countries in Asia and the Middle East, and among migrants from these areas. In Africa, more than 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk from FGM annually.

(6th May 2015)


FORCING TEACHERS TO REPORT FGM COULD STOP CHILDREN SEEKING HELP
(London Evening Standard, dated 30th March 2015 author Anna Davis)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.standard.co.uk/news/education/forcing-teachers-to-report-fgm-could-stop-children-seeking-help-10144057.html

New rules forcing teachers to report cases of FGM to police will make it harder for children to seek help, it was claimed today.

Teachers are now legally obliged to report cases of FGM to police, but this could undermine the trust children have in their teachers, the ATL conference heard.

Delegates at the meeting in Liverpool were today set to debate an emergency motion calling on the government to remove the "threat of criminalisation" from education professionals.

David Cameron announced at the Girl Summit in London last year that doctors, social workers and teachers would be legally obliged to report female genital mutilation if they see it.

Mandatory reporting of FGM was introduced to the Serious Crime Act, which received royal assent this month. Teachers who failed to report will be dealt with by existing disciplinary measures.

But Helen Porter, a biology teacher from Newbury, said the move could cause children to lose their trust in teachers, and mean teachers drop out of the profession for fear of being disciplined.

She said teachers also fear being criminalised for failing to report sexual exploitation and radicalisation as well.

"All teachers want to stop these things and are absolutely horrified by the events in Rotherham." But she said the current system, where teachers report concerns to a member of staff dedicated to child protection, already works well.

"We report any concerns, however small, immediately to the child protection lead. That builds up a whole picture of what's happening to that child. They would decide when to report and who to report to. They have the experience and expertise. We think it's a good system, but staff need a bit more training to make us aware of the signs and symptoms of sexual exploitation and radicalisation," she said.

She added that as a consequence of the new rules: "We think there will be a breakdown of trust between pupils and families. If that happens families may move schools and then it's much harder to keep track of what's happening in particular families.

"Young children will be less likely to talk to a teacher because they won't trust them.

She added that teacher recruitment will also suffer. "It will be one more nail in the coffin of teacher recruitment. It is already happening with social workers. If you get it wrong you are vilified."

Crime Prevention Minister Lynne Featherstone announced the new rules in February, saying: "We believe that introducing a mandatory duty will provide clarity for professionals and will give them the confidence to confront FGM. It will aid police investigations and increase the number of perpetrators caught and prosecuted.

"It will also send a clear message to perpetrators that they will be held responsible for their actions and help prevent this appalling crime from happening."

(6th May 2015)


MPs TAKE AIM AT DEPARTMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AS INACTION ON FGM IN SIERRA LEONE HEADS LIST OF FAILURES
(The Guardian, dated 26th March 2015 author Clar Ni Chonghaile)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/mar/26/uk-mps-dfid-fgm-sierra-leone-list-of-failures

Britain's Department for International Development (DfID) should have worked harder to pressure the government of Sierra Leone to end female genital mutilation (FGM), according to a group of British MPs.

In its final report ahead of the UK elections, the International Development Committee (IDC) said Sierra Leone had "ceased to matter to the development community" before the Ebola outbreak drew the world's attention to west Africa, where more than 10,300 people have been killed by the disease.

The IDC chided DfID for failing to do more to stamp out FGM in Sierra Leone and said that, since the practice had stopped during the Ebola outbreak, the department - one of the country's biggest bilateral donors, with a stated aim of ending violence against women and girls - should now make the issue a priority.

About 88% of girls undergo FGM in Sierra Leone, often during mass initiation ceremonies led by powerful secret societies. The IDC said it was disappointed that Sierra Leone was not included in the DfID-funded UN Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation.

In the report released on Thursday, the IDC reviewed its work between 2010 and 2015, arguing that it had succeeded in influencing government policy, including on the need for reform of the international approach to health emergencies.

Sierra Leone aside, the IDC said DfID had failed to exert enough pressure on donors and the Afghan government to entrench hard-won progress in women's rights in Afghanistan. The department's refusal to reconsider a decision to end bilateral aid to Burundi was also censured.

The IDC defined DfID's "failures" as recommendations the government had rejected. The committee expressed hope that policies would still change in the longer-term.

Sir Malcolm Bruce, the IDC chair, said he had asked Justine Greening, the international development secretary, about FGM during parliamentary questions on 18 March.

"She informed him that following the Ebola outbreak FGM had stopped because it was one of the main ways in which the disease could spread and that she was having discussions about how to prevent it becoming back. We urge DfID Sierra Leone to make this a priority," the IDC said.

In response to the report, DfID said the issue of FGM had to be handled sensitively, and led by Sierra Leoneans, pointing out that it had worked with survivors, local NGOs and partners in the country to advocate against FGM.

The committee also noted that its work on Sierra Leone and Liberia had been hampered by the fact that, prior to the Ebola outbreak, it encountered difficulty in getting evidence from different development actors.

"Evidently, Sierra Leone and Liberia had ceased to be of interest in the first half of 2014, although the situation changed as the Ebola outbreak refocused international attention on the country. We initially received fewer than 10 written submissions; in other inquiries we received closer to 100," the IDC said.

Last week, Baroness Lindsay Northover, parliamentary undersecretary of state at DfID, urged donors, aid agencies and campaigners to use the apparent cessation of FGM in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis to eradicate the practice altogether.

"We are aware that at the moment, with the Ebola crisis … cutting has temporarily stopped," Northover told a conference on FGM in London, according to Reuters. "We have to seize this opportunity and see if we can move forward and end FGM."

The IDC said DfID told the committee that, because FGM was legal in Sierra Leone, the UK could only take limited steps. The IDC rejected this argument.

"We believe that the UK and DfID holds considerable influence in Sierra Leone and it should be putting far more pressure on the leadership to end this practice," said the committee.

Another failure identified by the IDC related to DfID's policies on women and girls in Afghanistan. The department has committed to putting women and girls at the heart of the UK's development assistance, and London hosted a high-profile summit last year on ending sexual violence in conflict, setting itself up as a world leader on the issue.

Before last year's London conference on Afghanistan, however, DfID was criticised by some activists for sidelining women's rights. It said the rights of Afghan women and girls were a priority for the UK.

The IDC's final report suggested there was still a gap between rhetoric and reality. The committee said it had asked DfID to pressure other donors and the government in Kabul to back commitments to women, and to set up a joint donor-government plan to ensure money was funnelled to specific programmes for women and girls.

"It is to our great regret that DfID rejected these recommendations and we are now receiving reports from Afghanistan that women are being kept out of peace negotiations," the report said, citing an Oxfam study from late last year highlighting the absence of women in peace talks with the Taliban.

"Without women and women's rights activists being included in the process there is a risk that their hard-won rights may be lost in a peace settlement. We hope that our successor committee looks again at the position of women in Afghanistan," the IDC said.

DfID said it was supporting girls' education and women's economic and social empowerment, and working with the Afghan government to ensure it upholds its commitments to protect women. The department had provided £3.2m to strengthen access to justice for women and build awareness of women's rights in six provinces, it said.

The IDC also listed the closure of DfID's bilateral aid to Burundi under its failures, noting its 2011 recommendation that DfID should reconsider this decision. The government did not accept the recommendation, saying Burundi, where tensions have been rising ahead of elections this summer, would continue to benefit from DfID-funded multilateral organisations.

"We do not consider the decision to close the bilateral aid programme was rational or consistent. We urge our successor committee to maintain a focus on DfID's portfolio of priority countries in Africa, including Burundi, and to ensure the smallest and poorest countries continue to receive the bilateral support that they need," the IDC said.

Mary Creagh, the shadow secretary of state for international development, said the IDC report showed the government had missed opportunities to ensure the equal treatment of women and girls.

"DfID failed to include Sierra Leone in its project to end female genital mutilation despite the country having one of the highest prevalences in the world. And in Afghanistan, there was inadequate funding to supports women's rights," she said.

(6th May 2015)


COUNTING GENITAL PIERCINGS AS FGM UNDERMINES ABUSE SAYS UNION
(BBC Newsbeat, dated 19th March 2015 author Amelia Butterly)

Full article :

www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/31938409/counting-genital-piercings-as-fgm-undermines-abuse-says-union

All women who have "intimate piercings" will be classified as having suffered female genital mutilation (FGM), the Department of Health says.

Even if an adult consents to having it done, she will still be said to have undergone a "harmful procedure".

The Department of Health says it will take "every precaution" to record "abusive" genital piercings.

But the Tattoo and Piercing Industry Union (TPIU) has told Newsbeat body piercing is "in no way related" to FGM.

"It undermines the serious nature of FGM to in any way compare it to a consensual body piercing. FGM is often carried out on minors by force and clearly without consent," says spokesman Marcus Henderson.

More than 200 FGM-related cases were investigated by the police nationally in the past five years.

The government advises you to contact the NSPCC if you or someone you know is worried about FGM - and if there is immediate risk you should tell the police.

"Most responsible piercers won't do any intimate piercings on anyone under the age of 18," says Mr Henderson.

"Now we're faced with a situation where men are able to make up their mind and consent to an intimate piercing where women are not."

One London-based professional piercer, who wanted to remain anonymous, says his customers do not consider genital piercings to be at all similar to FGM.

His clinic offers a range of "intimate piercings". For women these include the clitoral hood, the Christina (where the outer labia meet) and the fouchette, which is done at the back of the vulva and can only be performed on people with enough loose skin.

"It's nothing to do with mutilation," he says. "I think [piercing] is more to do with adornment of the body or the discovery of new sensations."

He says he thoroughly checks photo identification before undertaking any piercing work and would never do a procedure on anyone under the age of 18.

"The most popular piercing of the female genital would be clitoral hood," he explains.

"It's pretty much the safest piercing of all the female genital piercings, if it's done correctly of course, so I really don't see how that could be considered mutilation."

He explains that "not everyone can have every single piercing done". In the past he has refused to perform genital piercings on women who have "anatomical unsuitability" because it would be dangerous for them to undergo the procedure.

He wants more regulations in the piercing to be introduced by the government, to ensure the health and safety of clients who wants these kinds of body modifications.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "While there are challenges in this area and adult women may have genital piercings, in some communities girls are forced to have them.

"The World Health Organisation has quite rightly defined this as a form of FGM.

"The new data collection will help build a picture of the scale and the nature of the problem we are facing. We are continually working on ways to improve and develop the NHS response to this terrible practice."

About 170,000 women and girls are thought to be living with FGM in the UK.

More than 2,600 women and girls who went through FGM have been treated by the NHS since last September - of those, 499 women and girls with FGM were seen by the NHS in England in January alone.

Last week, a report suggested police, midwives and campaigners were still confused about whether designer vagina operations - known as labiaplasty - were included in FGM laws.

The government has said it has no plans to amend the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 to specifically include cosmetic surgery on the genitals.

In its report the Home Affairs Select Committee of MPs said the Act should be changed to make it clear these procedures would be a criminal offence if done on girls under 18, unless for mental or physical health reasons.

(6th May 2015)


FGM : MORE THAN 2600 TREATED BY THE NHS SINCE SEPTEMBER
(The Guardian, dated 27th February 2015 author Alexandra Topping)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/27/fgm-more-than-2600-treated-by-the-nhs-since-september

More than 2,603 women and girls who went through female genital mutilation have been treated by the NHS since September, according to updated official figures.

The data, part of a range of government measures designed to eradicate FGM in the UK, reveals that 499 women and girls with FGM were seen in acute NHS trusts in England in January.

In total, 2,242 active cases were identified by acute trusts in January, from data provided by 126 of the 157 eligible trusts in England, according to data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Of the 2,603 cases reported since September, 44 were newly identified cases of girls under 18 who had been subjected to FGM.

Mary Wandia, FGM programme manager at Equality Now, said that the numbers were likely to keep rising as more women came forward to access health care. "This is the tip of the iceberg," she said. "It shows that training of health, social and education professionals is more urgent than ever. Those coming in contact with girls potentially at risk of FGM and women affected by it still don't have clear pathways and don't always know what to do."

But she added that huge progress had been made to providing a comprehensive approach to tackling FGM in the UK. "It is no longer in the shadows and is clearly on the national agenda. We just need to keep working to ensure that the law is properly implemented and that every single girl is protected," she said.

FGM has become a key issue in the UK in the last 12 months, after high-profile public campaigns gained public support. A Guardian petition saw the department of education write to schools about the dangers of FGM, while steps have been taken by the Department of Health and the Home Office to ensure cases are recorded and victims are better supported.

An estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales are affected by FGM, according to a study by Equality Now and City University, released in July.

FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, but there is yet to be a successful prosecution. Earlier this month, the Crown Prosecution Service came under fire for its decision to prosecute a doctor at the Whittington hospital in London. He was found not guilty of performing FGM by suturing a patient to stop her bleeding after childbirth.

The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 140 million girls and women have been subjected to FGM, a traditional practice designed to curb sexuality that involves the partial or total removal of the outer sexual organs. The procedure can cause lifelong physical and psychological complications.

(6th May 2015)


FGM CAMPAIGNERS GIVEN GOVERNMENT CASH TO FIGHT CRUEL PRACTICE IN AFRICA
(London Evening Standard, dated 6th February 2015 author Anna Davis)


Full article [Option 1]:

Campaigners against female genital mutilation will be given Government cash to carry out their work in Africa, it was announced today.

Five groups will be able to bid for up to £45,000 to run projects to stamp out FGM in Kenya, Nigeria and The Gambia.
The pledge by the Department for International Development is one of a raft of measures announced today to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. A new five-year research programme to find the best and cheapest ways to end FGM in Africa was also launched, as well as measures to crack down on FGM in this country.
New rules for UK doctors will be brought in forcing GPs and mental health trusts to report cases of FGM, in the same way that hospitals already do. Doctors and nurses will also get training to talk about FGM "sensitively" with patients, and a specialised team of skilled social workers will be put together to work with women and girls at risk of FGM.
The moves come as a summit of FGM survivors, politicians, police, health campaigners and charities took place in London to combat the practice that blights the lives of an estimated 137,000 women and girls in the UK.
Speaking about the grants for charities to work in Africa, International Development Minister Baroness Northover said: "Britain's African communities are experienced and vocal campaigners against this cruel practice and have made great progress in ending it here in the UK.
"The close links between communities in the UK and in Africa will help to build powerful grassroots movements that expose FGM for what it is: child abuse."
Charities will be able to apply for the cash from today. The money will come from the pot of £35 million pledged by the UK in 2013 to fight FGM over five years.
Naana Otoo-Oyortey, executive director of FORWARD, part of The Girl Generation which runs the grant programme, said: "This acknowledges the fact that diaspora organisations and individuals have been key players in raising the profile of FGM in the UK and many members of the diaspora are willing and able to contribute skills and expertise to support actions to end FGM in Africa."
Speaking about the new rules for doctors, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: "FGM devastates the lives of women and girls and we are committed to ending this brutal practice in one generation.
"I am immensely proud of this Government's legacy and continued work to end FGM. The measures announced today will help the NHS fulfil its duty to care for women who have had FGM, protect them and their daughters from further harm, and prevent girls being mutilated."

(1st March 2015)


BRITISH WOMAN ARRESTED AT HEATHROW ON SUSPICION OF FGM OFFENCE
(London Evening Standard, dated 6th February 2015 Standard Reporter)


Full article [Option 1]:

A 42-year-old woman has been arrested at Heathrow Airport for conspiracy to commit Female Genital Mutilation, Scotland Yard said.

Officers arrested the woman, a British national born in Zimbabwe, at around 12:15pm just before she was about to get on a flight to Ghana via Amsterdam.
She was taken to a west London police station and subsequently transferred to Northamptonshire Police who will investigate the case.
The woman was arrested by police as they carried out an awareness operation to coincide with the International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM.
An eight-year-old girl travelling with the woman was taken into the care of social services.
Metropolitan Police and UK Border Force officers carried out an operation at the country's largest airport to raise awareness of FGM, also known as female circumcision.
The procedure, which is illegal, involves the removal or injuring of a woman's genitals for non-medical reasons.
It is highly dangerous and can lead to infection, problems during childbirth and be fatal.
Officers have been stationed at the west London airport to carry out preventative and detection work in relation to inbound and outbound flights to "countries of prevalence" for FGM.
Officers from Project Azure, the Met Police response to tackling FGM, and other specialist officers distributed health passports, checked luggage and spoke to passengers from countries affected by the crime.
They spoke to passengers on a flight from Kenya earlier this morning. No offences were identified but individuals were given guidance about the risks involved with FGM.
Passengers travelling to destinations including Ghana, Doha and Abu Dhabi will also be spoken to by officers at the airport, who will be handing out copies of the Home Office "health passport".
Detective Chief Inspector Jane Scotchbrook, from the Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command, said: "Today's activity is one aspect of our continued efforts to raise awareness of this form of child abuse, its associated immediate and long-term health risks, and the absence of any religious teaching that supports its undertaking.
"Our focus is on targeting those communities where offences of FGM are prevalent, by engaging with passengers travelling to and from countries where the offence is practised.
"We hope to educate and prevent anyone who may engage in FGM, as well as highlighting the support available to those who may be at risk."

(1st March 2015)

 


FGM BEING INFLICTED IN NEW WAYS TO AVOID DETECTION - MPS WARNED
(London Evening Standard, dated 30th January 2015 author Martin Bentham)


Full article [Option 1]:

Cutters are using new techniques to inflict female genital mutilation on girls living in Britain in an attempt to avoid detection, MPs have been warned.

The Royal College of Midwives said that the "communities" who carried out FGM had begun to "vary the practice" to stay "one step ahead" of those seeking to stop the crime.
It cited one recent case in which mutilation of a type "never seen before" had been inflicted, and added that the new tactics were creating "difficulties" for medical staff as they battled to eradicate the barbaric practice.
The warning came during a hearing of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, which also heard claims that adult British women are being forced to undergo mutilation after marrying men from communities that practise FGM.
There was a separate warning from the Met - which disclosed it is currently conducting 18 "live" investigations into suspected mutilation - about a continuing lack of cases being referred to police by NHS staff and teachers.
But the most disturbing evidence came as the Royal College of Midwives' FGM adviser Janet Fyle told MPs that new methods are being used to inflict mutilation.
"As we get more vigilant the communities who practise FGM vary how and what they do and when," she said.
"There are standard types of FGM, but recently somebody has come across something that we have never seen before and they do it in a different way.
"They are always one step ahead of those who are trying to stop them."
Ms Fyle said she was also concerned that cases involving adult British victims who married men from cultures that believed in FGM were being overlooked.
She said: "Another issue for me is that we are just focusing on under-18s.
"When you open this can of worms you will find that you have British born children, European children, who might marry into that community and at 18 plus they might be pressured into having FGM."
In earlier evidence, Detective Chief Superintendent Keith Niven, who leads Scotland Yard's efforts to combat mutilation, said police were liaising with prosecutors over four cases and that another 18 "live investigations" were underway.
He admitted, however, that the overall number of probes remained "very small" and that law enforcers were "certainly not going to prosecute our way to eradicating FGM" in time to meet the government's target of eliminating the practice in Britain within a decade.
Mr Niven blamed a low level of referrals from the NHS and schools for the lack of action so far.
He added that only a handful of the 83 suspected cases passed to police during the past nine months turned out to involve suspected FGM.

(1st March 2015)


FGM BEING INFLICTED IN NEW WAYS TO AVOID DETECTION-MPS WARNED
(London Evening Standard, dated 30th January 2015 author Martin Bentham)


Full article [Option 1]:

Cutters are using new techniques to inflict female genital mutilation on girls living in Britain in an attempt to avoid detection, MPs have been warned.

The Royal College of Midwives said that the "communities" who carried out FGM had begun to "vary the practice" to stay "one step ahead" of those seeking to stop the crime.
It cited one recent case in which mutilation of a type "never seen before" had been inflicted, and added that the new tactics were creating "difficulties" for medical staff as they battled to eradicate the barbaric practice.

The warning came during a hearing of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, which also heard claims that adult British women are being forced to undergo mutilation after marrying men from communities that practise FGM.

There was a separate warning from the Met - which disclosed it is currently conducting 18 "live" investigations into suspected mutilation - about a continuing lack of cases being referred to police by NHS staff and teachers.
But the most disturbing evidence came as the Royal College of Midwives' FGM adviser Janet Fyle told MPs that new methods are being used to inflict mutilation.
"As we get more vigilant the communities who practise FGM vary how and what they do and when," she said.
"There are standard types of FGM, but recently somebody has come across something that we have never seen before and they do it in a different way.
"They are always one step ahead of those who are trying to stop them."
Ms Fyle said she was also concerned that cases involving adult British victims who married men from cultures that believed in FGM were being overlooked.
She said: "Another issue for me is that we are just focusing on under-18s.
"When you open this can of worms you will find that you have British born children, European children, who might marry into that community and at 18 plus they might be pressured into having FGM."

In earlier evidence, Detective Chief Superintendent Keith Niven, who leads Scotland Yard's efforts to combat mutilation, said police were liaising with prosecutors over four cases and that another 18 "live investigations" were underway.
He admitted, however, that the overall number of probes remained "very small" and that law enforcers were "certainly not going to prosecute our way to eradicating FGM" in time to meet the government's target of eliminating the practice in Britain within a decade.
Mr Niven blamed a low level of referrals from the NHS and schools for the lack of action so far.
He added that only a handful of the 83 suspected cases passed to police during the past nine months turned out to involve suspected FGM.

(1st February 2015)

 


HOSPITALS DEAL WITH 1500 CASES OF FGM IN JUST FIVE YEARS
(Mail Online, dated 27th January 2015 author Richard Spillett)


Full article [Option 1]:

Doctors at one English hospital have dealt with 1,500 cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in just five years, it emerged today.
Figures from Birmingham's Heartlands Hospital reveal that staff see six patients who have been subjected to the barbaric procedure every week.

Nationwide, 15 new cases of FGM are reported to hospital around the country every day. But the victims of the shocking practice are clustered in certain areas, which explains the high rate in Birmingham.

Heartlands saw 349 cases in 2013, following 288 cases in 2012, 316 in 2011 and 317 in 2010.
It is thought to be one of the centres which has seen a large number of the 463 cases now being identified in England every month.

NSPCC Head of Child Protection Operations John Cameron said: 'These figures show the NHS is consistently seeing a high number of FGM cases every month.
'FGM is a live public health issue and it is vital all health professionals are trained to spot the signs of FGM and that girls who are subjected to this brutal practice get the post-traumatic support they deserve.
'We need to ensure doctors, midwives and other healthcare professionals are working effectively together with children's services to support and protect FGM victims and their family members.'
The records show the number of women recorded as having been subjected to the practice, even if they were in hospital for another reason.

Campaigners have pointed out that the numbers may be just the tip of the iceberg, as only those women who have sought specific medical treatment are included in the data.
It is believed the vast majority of cases are women who were born abroad and then moved to the UK in childhood or later life.

Victims are often identified when they come in to have infections and other conditions linked to the procedure treated, while others are noted when they attend for pre-natal checks.
FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1984 and since 2003 anyone taking a child out of the UK for the practice faces 14 years in prison.
Despite the rise in hospital cases and an increase in reports to police in 2014 there has not been a single conviction in the UK.
Research by the charity Equality Now and City University last year estimated more than 100,000 women have migrated to England and Wales after suffering FGM - up more than 50% since 2001.

The Birmingham hospital's figures were released after the Muslim Women's Network told the West Midlands Police and Crime Panel that the levels current support and counselling for victims - many of whom suffer flashbacks - are not good enough.
The charity said the latest case it uncovered was just last week and involved a young Yemeni girl from an unnamed Birmingham school.
Shaita Gohir MBE, who is chair of the charity, told the panel: 'We need to get funding for specific counselling in this area.'

Birmingham is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Britain. In the 2011 census, more than 280,000 residents - 26% of the city's population - gave their ethnicity as Asian or Asian-British, 93,000 said they consider themselves Black or Black-British and 10,900 listed themselves as Arab.
Earlier this month, Britain's top family judge, Sir James Munby called on local councils to do more to battle what he called 'the great evil' of FGM.
He said: 'Plainly, given the nature of the evil, prevention is infinitely better than cure.
'Local authorities need to be pro-active and vigilant in taking appropriate protective measures to prevent girls being subjected to FGM.
'The court must not hesitate to use every weapon in its protective arsenal if faced with a case of actual or anticipated FGM.'

FGM is concentrated in a swath of countries from the Atlantic coast to the Horn of Africa, with wide variations in the percentage of girls and women cut, both within and across countries.

The following are UNICEF figures :
Somalia : 98%
Guinen : 96%
Djibouti : 93%
Egypt : 91%
Eritrea : 89%
Mali : 89%
Seirra Leone : 88%
Sudan : 88%
Gambia : 76%
Burkino Faso : 76%
Ethiopia : 74%
Mauritania : 69%
Liberia : 65%
Guinea-Bissau : 50%
Chad : 44%
Cote d'Ivoire : 38%
Kenya : 27%
Nigeria : 27%
Senegal : 26%
Ten further countries are mentioned in the article, whose % victims range between 1 and 24%.
 

 

*The NSPCC operates an FGM helpline. Anyone in need of advice should phone 0800 028 3550.

(1st February 2015)


FGM DETECTIVES TARGET KEY LONDON BOROUGHS
(London Evening Standard, dated 9th December 2014 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk [Option 1]

Met Detectives investigating female genital mutilation are to target nine "key boroughs".

It follows concerns that a lack of intelligence about the barbaric practice is hindering efforts to protect girls.

The boroughs are Hounslow, Islington, Newham, Camden, Brent, lambeth, Croydon,, Ealing and Waltham Forest. They were chosen partly because of the number of suspected cases referred to police or social services.

Other reasons include the "community background" of residents, and the extnt of existing intelligence about girls at risk in the area.

The disclosure was made in a submission to the London Assembly by the Met. There is continuing concern about the lack of prosecutions for carrying out or planning mutilation.

Figures from the Crown Prosecution Service show 10 suspected cases referred to it by the Met have resulted in "no further action", and only two files remain to be decided upon. Two people,both of whom are awaiting trial, have been charged with offences, in a case that involves an adult alleged victim rather than a child.

In its assessment of the problem, Scotland Yard told the Assembly the Met was the only state agency to have kept records on suspected FGM cases since 2009.

It added that "health, education and social services" had " not engaged at an appropriate level" in the past.

This had changed, but a "problem profile" compiled by the force was still imcomplete because of the limited data available. It added : " The findngs identified a number of intelligence gaps and key recommendations, one of which is targeting nine key boroughs overtly".

Police will hold meetings with people from potentially affected communities, and deliver "awareness packages" to boost understanding of the issue. Monthly reviews will check on progress.

FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1985. Legislation in 2003 made it a crime to take a girl overseas for mutilation.

(1st January 2015)


UK PLAN TO REQUIRE PROFESSIONALS TO REPORT SUSPECTED FGM CASES
(The Guardian, dated 5th December 2014 author Alexandra Topping)

Full article [Option 1]:

www.theguardian.com/society/2014/dec/05/fgm-uk-professionals-report-suspected-cases

Campaigners against female genital mutilation (FGM) have cautiously welcomed government moves to require professionals to report suspected cases of FGM, but warned of the risk of alienating communities and forcing the practice further underground.

On Friday the government launched a consultation into mandatory reporting of FGM that will ask which professionals (Teacher, Doctors etc.) should be forced to report, how it should be introduced and what punishment frontline professionals should face if they fail to report a case.

"Girls who are at risk have to be protected and it has been very challenging for police to launch investigations without information from the frontline," said crime prevention minister Lynne Featherstone, the government lead on FGM. "Frontline professionals need clarity on this. If a boy came to a professional with half of his penis missing there would be no question about whether it should be reported."

A new FGM unit will carry out a series of roadshows in areas where FGM is believed to be prevalent, including London, Manchester and Birmingham. It will also fund the charity Forward to train local safeguarding children's boards, and work with police and border force agents to prosecute offenders, said Featherstone.

FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985, but only two prosecutions have been brought and there is yet to be a conviction.

Charities welcomed the moves, but some warned that heavy-handed mandatory reporting could further marginalise practising communities.

Naana Otoo-Oyortey, director of Forward, said there needed to be a national FGM strategy and said the government must listen to the fears of grassroots organisations around mandatory reporting. "We need mandatory reporting when a child is at risk, but if that means the reporting of any woman who has been through FGM then that is victimisation and could be very discriminatory," she said.

The government also gave details on Friday of a £270,000 FGM funding pot for grassroots organisations, a sum that Otoo-Oyortey said revealed a lack of seriousness about community work. "Community engagement is seen as an add-on, an afterthought - but that is where we will really change things."

Comfort Momoh, a midwife and founder of the African Well Women's Clinic, said more awareness was needed before mandatory reporting was introduced. "It's a case of the cart coming before the horse - you have to educate and raise awareness among professionals before you can hold them to account," she said.

There is a risk that victims of FGM will be less likely to engage with health professionals, said Sarah McCulloch, director of charity ACCM UK. "Many in the communities we work with say they are not going to use services because they do not want to get themselves or their parents into trouble - they are very fearful of being arrested," she said. "Yes, if a child is at risk it needs to be reported, but let's help victims first."

Featherstone said the consultation would enable possible "perverse" consequences of mandatory reporting to be addressed. "We don't want to stop women coming forward, but we do need to increase the amount of information coming through to police to increase the number of investigations. Mandatory reporting is part of a range of measures - we can't leave it out of the equation but we need all the other components to work effectively too."

(1st January 2015)


FIGHT AGAINST FGM SUFFERS A BLOW AS MORE CASES ARE DROPPED WITHOUT CHARGES
(London Evening Standard, dated 17th November 2014 author Martin Bentham)


Full article [Option 1] :

Hopes of a landmark first British prosecution for the female genital mutilation of a child were dealt a blow today, after the number of suspected "cutting" cases over which no charges will be brought rose to double figures.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it had decided that "no further action" could be taken in 10 out of 12 cases referred to it by police, and only two files were still being considered for possible criminal charges.
It said that reasons for vetoing prosecution included the reluctance of one victim to testify against a 35-year-old suspect from London. A gap in the 1985 law banning FGM in England and Wales made it impossible to prosecute a Somali woman aged 40 who allegedly subjected her daughter to mutilation during a holiday in her homeland.
Three other women, two of whom were arrested at Heathrow, escaped charges because items they possessed - which police believed were going to be used for cutting - could also be used for other "traditional practices" that were lawful.
A 38-year-old London man who threatened to inflict FGM has been told he will not be charged because police were unable to show that he intended to put his words into action.
News that so many investigations have failed to produce prosecutions will disappoint campaigners, and reinforce concerns that existing measures to combat FGM are inadequate. They will also raise fears about the ability of the Metropolitan police - whose detectives are facing a growing burden from historical child sex abuse cases - to overcome the difficulty of obtaining proof to bring offenders to justice.
Ministers have already responded to the lack of charges by announcing a raft of legal reforms, including anonymity for victims and a new duty on parents to prevent mutilation. These are currently passing through Parliament as part of the Serious Crime Bill.
Today the Crown Prosecution Service and Scotland Yard vowed to do all in their power to charge offenders.
A CPS spokeswoman said FGM had "devastating consequences for girls and women" and it welcomed the government's action to strengthen the law, in response to recommendations from Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders. "The proposed changes [will mean] there will be a positive duty on parents or carers to prevent their child from being mutilated, and a positive duty on medical and healthcare professionals to report FGM and people at risk from it," the spokeswoman said.
"The changes will extend our powers to prosecute for actions committed overseas; enable us to work with police to build stronger cases; and give those that inflict such cruelty on women and girls fewer places to hide."
A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said the Met "remains absolutely resolute in its efforts to detect and prevent FGM", and was working with heath, education and other professionals to ensure that girls at risk and victims were identified.
She added: "FGM is a hidden crime. It is a taboo subject within families and practising communities, making it very difficult for police to detect. We are now focusing on trying to secure the information about those committing the offences so there is less of a reliance on the victim giving evidence - often against their loved ones."
Two people, doctor Dhanuson Dharmasena, 32, and another man who cannot be named, have been charged with FGM offences over the alleged mutilation of a woman who had just given birth at The Whittington Hospital in Archway. Both deny the allegations and are due to stand trial in January at Southwark Crown Court.
Anyone who has been subjected to FGM or who is at risk should contact the police on 999 or Project Azure officers on 0207 161 2888. They can also call the NSPCC FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550.

(1st December 2014)

 


UK TO INTRODUCE MEASURES TO STOP GIRLS BEING TAKEN ABROAD FOR FGM
(The Guardian, 20th October 2014 author Alexandra Topping)


Full article [Option 1] :

Girls who are at risk of being removed from the UK to undergo female genital mutilation will have their passports confiscated so they cannot be taken out of the country, under "unprecedented" legal reforms announced by the government.
If a girl is suspected to be at risk, courts will be able to use new FGM protection orders to prevent her parents taking her out of the country. They could also pave the way for the mandatory medical examination of girls believed to be at risk, who will be required to live at a named address so that authorities can check they have not been subjected to the practice.
The tough new FGM measures were introduced via amendments to the serious crime bill tabled in parliament on Monday. They include a new legal duty on parents to protect their daughters from mutilation, or face prosecution if they fail to do so.
Victims will also receive lifelong anonymity in an attempt to encourage victims to give evidence in court.
The serious crime bill already extends the extra-territorial offences in the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 so that they cover habitual as well as permanent UK residents involved in offences of FGM committed abroad - closing a loophole that had left vulnerable some girls who were living in the UK but were not permanent residents.
Justice minister Mike Penning said: "We are introducing an unprecedented package of measures to strengthen protection for victims, encourage them to report the crime to the police and get support. We also want to prosecute those who knowingly let this terrible abuse happen to children they are responsible for. We know that legislation alone cannot eradicate this unacceptable practice. But it is important that we change the law where necessary."
Teachers, social workers, police and other individuals such as friends or relatives of a girl will be able to obtain FGM protection orders by applying to the courts with evidence that she is at risk. If the court agrees, civil restrictions - which require a lower burden of proof than criminal charges - will be put in place. They could include ensuring a child is kept at one address, mandatory medical examination and travel bans. If parents or guardians breach the order, they would be committing a criminal offence.
The orders have been designed to make it easier to prevent "vacation cutting" - the practice by which girls are taken out of the country during the summer holidays to be cut - while also enabling a child to remain safely with her parents instead of being taken in to care. An estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales are affected by FGM, according to a study by Equality Now and City University.
Last week it was revealed that more than 1,700 women and girls who have undergone female genital mutilation had been treated by the NHS - although not necessarily for issues related to the practice - since April.
The first official figures to be published on the numbers of FGM cases seen by hospitals in England showed that 467 previously unknown genital mutilation survivors were treated at acute NHS trusts in England in September.
Police operations at airports and ports over the summer led to the arrest of several adults suspected of taking children abroad to undergo FGM. The practice has been illegal in the UK since 1985. There has yet to be a criminal conviction in this country but the first prosecution for the practice is currently in the courts.

(1st December 2014)

 


FGM : BAN KI-MOON BACKS GUARDIANS GLOBAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN
(The Guardian, dated 31st October 2014 author Alexandra Topping)

Full article [Option 1] :

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, is backing a ground-breaking global media campaign led by the Guardian to revolutionise how female genital mutilation is reported and perceived across the world, with the aim of ending the practice.

Speaking at a key meeting with the heads of all of Kenya's main media organisations at the UN headquarters in Nairobi, he announced five international FGM reporting grants - co-funded by the UNFPA, the UN's population fund, and the Guardian - which will see key journalists in Kenya focus on FGM in an attempt to eradicate the harmful practice within a generation. Ban said he hoped the Kenyan model could act as a template that could be replicated across the continent.
"Not only do we hope to support the Kenyan media in bringing the issue of FGM to national and global attention, but we hope to create a media model that can be reproduced in other countries," he said. "The mutilation of girls and women must stop in this generation - our generation."
It is the first time an international news organisation has teamed with the UN and other leading news outlets to provide a coordinated response to a practice that affects more than 130 million girls and women around the world.
Ban also announced a reporting award that will be granted annually to an African reporter who has demonstrated innovation and commitment in covering FGM. The winner will spend two months training and working in the Guardian's head offices in London.
The award is named after Efua Dorkenoo, who campaigned against FGM for 30 years before her death earlier this month, and headed the new Girl Generation campaign consortium.
Maggie O'Kane, coordinator of the Guardian's EndFGM media campaign, said the launch of the global media campaign in Kenya was coming at a critical moment when the media, the law and government were all pushing in the same direction. "It really feels like things can happen here very, very fast now … people feel ready," she said.
The launch of the Kenyan initiative marks a new chapter in the Guardian's campaign, which has spanned three continents. After launching in February in the UK, where an estimated 20,000 girls are at risk of FGM, a petition from 17-year-old school girl Fahma Mohammed became one of the fastest growing in the history of campaigning website change.org.
Following support from the UN secretary general and teenage activist Malala Yousafzai, the petition secured a meeting with then education secretary, Michael Gove, who agreed to its key demand to write to all schools about the dangers of FGM.
Campaigner Jaha Dukureh successfully lobbied the Obama administration to carry out the first prevalence study since 1997 and create an action plan to tackle the issue in the US, where girls told the Guardian they had been taken back to their parents countries and subjected to "vacation cutting".

Ban told the Nairobi audience of media moguls, UN officials and campaigners that the campaign had helped create "sustained public pressure [which] brought about concrete results".
This month Dukureh took the campaign back to her home country of the Gambia, and with funding from the EndFGM consortium, The Girl Generation and the Guardian, hosted a youth summit that was front-page news in local media.
This year has been a critical one in the fight to eradicate FGM, with David Cameron and Barack Obama both speaking out against the practice, and promising policies to help bring an end to it for good. This month also saw the launch of The Girl Generation, the major Africa-led, UK-government-backed consortium that will focus its work on Africa, where most of the 29 countries that carry out FGM on girls are located.

(1st December 2014)

 


500 NEW FGM CASES UNCOVERED IN A MONTH
(BBC News, dated 16th October 2014)


NHS figures show 467 newly identified cases of girls and women needing treatment after female genital mutilation in England last month.
A further 1,279 people, who had already been identified, were receiving treatment according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) data.
It is the first time the NHS has collected figures on the criminal act.
The children's charity the NSPCC said the numbers were "shocking".
The cutting of girls' genitalia has been illegal in Britain since 1985, but nobody has been convicted in the courts.
The HSCIC data is an attempt to understand the scale of the problem.
It shows the crime is happening in all regions in England although half of the cases were in London.

'Scandal'

Kingsley Manning, the chairman of the HSCIC, said: "This is the first national collection of NHS data about numbers of FGM cases and we will continue to collect and publish these figures.
"Having accurate data about this crime is an important step in helping prevent its occurrence in the future."
Estimates suggest that up to 170,000 women and girls living in the UK may have undergone FGM.
In July, a group of MPs said failing to tackle FGM was a "national scandal" and blamed a "misplaced concern for cultural sensitivities" for inaction.
In a conference later that month, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that parents, in England and Wales, would face prosecution if they failed to stop their daughters undergoing FGM.
The Department of Health said collecting the data was a "major milestone" for efforts to end female genital mutilation "in one generation here in the UK".
Responding to the figures, John Cameron from the NSPCC said: "These are shocking figures and prove that FGM is very much a live public health issue.
"This NHS data shows just how vital it is that health professionals are trained to spot the signs of FGM so we can ensure that women and girls who are subjected to this brutal practice get the post-traumatic support they deserve."
Janet Fyle, a policy advisor at the the Royal College of Midwives, commented: "This is a ground-breaking and a historic day, but also a wake-up call that half the reported cases were in London.
"We hope that we can eradicate this practice by protecting those girls at risk and offer appropriate care and support to the survivors."

(1st December 2014)

 


PASSPORT CONFISCATION PLAN TO STOP FGM
(The Telegraph, dated 20th October 2014 author David Barrett)

Full article : www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11175385/Passport-confiscation-plan-to-stop-FGM.html


Girls at risk of female genital mutilation could have their passports confiscated to stop them being taken abroad to suffer a procedure which ministers have described as a type of child abuse.

Proposals being put forward in the Serious Crime Bill include a new civil protection order which would protect victims or potential victims of the mutilation, known as 'FGM', the Ministry of Justice said.

Victims, potential victims or third parties, including teachers, carers, social workers, local authorities or friends, who believe there is a real risk of FGM taking place will be able to apply to the court for an order under the proposals.

The Government is also creating a new offence of failing to protect a girl from FGM.

Mike Penning, the justice minister, said: "FGM is child abuse and the Government is committed to tackling and preventing this harmful and unacceptable practice.

We are introducing an unprecedented package of measures to strengthen protection for victims, encourage them to report the crime to the police and get support.

"We also want to prosecute those who knowingly let this terrible abuse happen to children they are responsible for.

"We know that legislation alone cannot eradicate this unacceptable practice. But it is important that we change the law where necessary."

Changes are also being introduced to grant victims of FGM lifelong anonymity from the time an allegation is made to help them report the offence to the police.

Anyone who has parental responsibility for a girl who has been mutilated when she was under 16, and is in frequent contact with her, or who has assumed responsibility for such a girl, will be potentially liable for prosecution under the failing to protect a girl from FGM offence.

It would apply if said person knew, or ought to have known, that there was a significant risk of FGM being carried out, but did not take reasonable steps to prevent it from happening.

A report published earlier this year suggested 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales had suffered the practice which involves surgically removing parts of the genitals, purportedly for cultural reasons

(1st November 2014)



NEW CAMPAIGN TO END FGM IN AFRICA
(London Evening Standard, dated 9th October 2014 author Anna Davis)

Full article :

www.standard.co.uk/news/london/new-campaign-to-end-female-genital-mutilation-in-africa-9784134.html [Option 1]

A new campaign to end female genital mutilation in Africa will launch tomorrow.

The Girl Generation: Together To End FGM is funded by the department for international development.

It will publicise the changes already taking place in Africa, with the aim of extending those measures to stamp out FGM on the continent for good.

The five-year programme will work in 10 countries, beginning with Kenya, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.

It will spread stories of change, support media campaigns and organise events. Human rights groups Equality Now and Forward will run the project with communications firm Ogilvy & Mather Africa.

Programme director Efua Dorkenoo said: "This initiative will use innovative marketing and communications approaches to accelerate an end to this human rights violation. The good news is that FGM abandonment is increasing on the African continent, but we are at a critical point, where new financial injections are urgently needed."

The Southbank Centre is holding a speed mentoring event for girls on the London Eye tomorrow to coincide with the launch and to mark International Day of the Girl.

Mentors include Evening Standard editor Sarah Sands, actress Julie Walters, Baroness Lawrence and Southbank centre artistic director Jude Kelly. They will meet schoolgirls to discuss positive communication and speaking out.

(1st November 2014)



HUMAN RIGHTS BARRISTER CALLS ON MEN TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST FGM
(London Evening Standard, dated 6th October 2014 author Anna Davis)

Full article :

A human rights barrister says men have a duty to speak out against female genital mutilation because without them the practice will not end.

Dexter Dias QC said FGM is not simply a "women's problem". He warned that many men from FGM-practising communities pretend they do not know anything about it - even though it is carried out to please them.
At an FGM conference in Tower Hamlets he said: "It is done by older women on younger women for men. If we want to fight a social practice that is so harmful and is grounded in patriarchy there is little better you can do than to enlist some of the patriarchs."
Some 103,000 women and girls living in the UK are estimated to have had FGM, which in its most extreme form involves cutting off the clitoris and sewing the vagina shut.

Mr Dias said: "FGM is fundamentally about patriarchy, but that doesn't mean much to people. What it means is controlling the sexuality of women by mutilating their genitals."

Campaigner and FGM survivor Leyla Hussein said it was hard to believe that men who are married to women with extreme forms of FGM do not know anything is wrong.
She added that fathers have a duty to protect their daughters from having the same procedure as their mothers, and can refuse to pay for it.
"FGM is done for you [men] so you need to speak up," she said. "You decide the name of your child and the school she will go to and who she will marry but somehow you weren't available when her genitals were cut off?"
Mr Dias said: "Why I am so interested in FGM is it is a human rights issue. It doesn't matter that I am not a woman, that I am not from a practising community and that I am not from a particular religious group. We share a common humanity."
The Cruel Cut conference took place before a major fundraising event which raised £40,000 for London charity Manor Gardens, which provides support for survivors of FGM.
Comedians Sara Pascoe and Kate Smurthwaite, pianist Kate Whitley and poet Sabrina Mahfouz were among the performers at the event. A major auction including a signed Tracey Emin print helped to raise £40,000.
(1st November 2014)

 


AIRLINE STAFF ARE TRAINED TO SPOT VICTIMS OF FGM
(London Evening Standard, dated 10th September 2014 author Martin Bentham)

Full article :

Flight attendants and other aircrew are being trained to spot potential victims of female genital mutilation returning from overseas, as part of a renewed UK Border Force campaign to tackle the barbaric practice.

Airline staff are being told that girls who appear upset, uncomfortable or under oppressive parental control might have suffered FGM abroad - and that they should immediately alert UK Border Force staff.
The aim is to allow checks by specialist immigration teams when the children and their families land in Britain so that any adults responsible for mutilation can be detained, and for help to be given to victims.
Other girls found to be at risk will be taken into care and only returned to their families once safeguarding staff and police judge that it is safe to do so.
The new strategy, which was being deployed today on airlines using Gatwick, is focusing on flights to and from destinations such as Gambia and other west African countries where FGM is legal or widely practised.
Other flights using "hubs" such as Dubai and Istanbul are being targeted because of concern that they might be carrying victims or girls at risk.
Passenger lists on inbound flights are also being scrutinised by UK Border Force teams to identify girls and families about whom information has been received from the public, police or others involved in trying to combat FGM.
In such cases, immigration staff will question the girls and their families to establish whether FGM has taken place or is likely if action is not taken.
Stuart Percival, the head of the UK Border Force safeguarding team for tackling FGM, said the new methods had already led to two girls being taken into temporary care.
FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1985. Since 2003, it has also been a crime to carry out the practice overseas.
 

(1st November 2014)

 


BREAKTHROUGH IN TACKLING FGM AS LONDON CLINIC OPENS TO HELP VICTIMS
(London Evening Standard, dated 15th August 2014 author Martin Bentham)

Full article :

Britain's first specialist clinic for child victims of female genital mutilation is to open in London in a major breakthrough in combating the barbaric practice.

The clinic, at University College Hospital, will start next month and give medical treatment and psychological help to girls aged from babies to 18 who have been mutilated here or overseas.
It will also provide expert advice when girls are at risk, and examinations in cases where police and social workers are unsure about whether cutting has occurred.
In a further move designed to bring those responsible for FGM to justice, consultants at the clinic will also take medical photographs of victims' injuries and testify in court to ensure that prosecutions can be brought.
 
Announcing the new clinic, Deborah Hodes, a consultant paediatrician at University College Hospital, said that the decision to begin the specialist service had been prompted by the "increasing" number of cases that she and colleagues were receiving.
She said some involved girls with partially sewn-up vaginas who needed surgery. Other victims were suffering months of nightmares and "flashbacks" about the day when they were mutilated.
Further problems included infections caused by scar tissue and, for older girls, the risk of pain during sexual intercourse and complications during pregancy and childbirth.
Ms Hodes said such cases showed the serious harm caused by FGM and pledged that the clinic would seek to improve the lives of existing victims and protect others from suffering the abuse.
She added: "The physical and pyschological impact can be terrible. This is violence against women. Some girls suffer from post-traumatic stress and if they have been sewn there will be scar tissue that could get torn if they are dancers, gymnasts, ride bikes or are active in other ways.
"It can also cause infections and problems later on when they want to get married. So there are complications that are both immediate and long- term."
Ms Hodes, who will run the new clinic with Professor Sarah Creighton, a consulant gynaecologist, already specialises in treating child victims of sex abuse. She emphasised that patients would be given "sensitive" treatment, examinations and advice that would show understanding of their cultural background. Surgery and counselling would also be provided when needed.
She said an important part of the clinic's work would also be to assist police and social workers in protecting girls and taking court action to prevent mutilation and bring those responsible for inflicting it to justice. She said that both she and Professor Creighton would be ready to provide witness statements and give expert testimony in court. Specialist medical photographs would also be taken of victims' injuries to prove when cutting and sewing, which is not always easily detected, had occurred.
Ms Hodes said the clinic would also be able to assess siblings of FGM victims to determine whether they had been mutilated or might be at risk in the future. Staff also hoped that the help provided to girls and families attending the clinic would change attitudes.
She said the clinic could play an important "safeguarding" role and added: "We think it will make a huge difference. If patients are treated sympathetically and properly it will improve their physical and psychological well-being.
"We can't put back what's been cut, but we can improve girls' lives. It will lead to prevention too because hopefully they will tell their friends that it's illegal, it's a bad thing."
The majority of the girls who have already been seen by Ms Hodes and her colleagues have been referred to University College Hospital by either the Met or social care staff.
The new clinic, which will hold monthly sessions at the hospital, will continue to receive such cases and hopes its expertise will be sought by police and child protection officials from across the capital. It will also treat other girls referred to it after going voluntarily to their GP to seek help.
Today's news follows the recent "Girl Summit" hosted by David Cameron to tackle FGM and other problems such as early marriage that affect young females around the world. Research by London's City University and campaign group Equality Now estimates 137,000 women, including 10,000 under 15, who were born in overseas countries that practise FGM now live in England and Wales.
The Met has warned that it believes cutting is still taking place in the UK.

(1st September 2014)
 

 


PROSECUTING FGM CUTTERS WILL PROTECT GIRLS, SAY 49% IN POLL
(London Evening Standard, dated 14th August 2014 author Martin Bentham)

Full article :

Nearly half of Britons believe that bringing "cutters" and other offenders to justice is the best way to reduce the number of girls in this country who are suffering female genital mutilation, a survey has revealed.

The poll, carried out for the children's charity Plan UK, found that 29 per cent of people believe that improving the help available for girls who are at risk and making it clear that the barbaric practice is wrong would be the most effective way of stopping the abuse.

Another 10 per cent said that telling parents about the damage FGM can cause to girls' health would reduce the number of victims the most. But the largest proportion - 49 per cent - said the key to tackling the problem was ensuring that those responsible were properly punished.

The finding will focus attention on the lack of success so far in bringing offenders to justice.
Only two people, both of whom deny committing any offence, have been charged since FGM was made illegal in 1985 despite a succession of cases being referred to the Crown Prosecution Service by the Met police in recent months.

Met chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has said that his officers believe that cutting is taking place in Britain with "at least as many girls injured in this country as abroad".

The Government has responded with a series of legal changes, including a right to anonymity for victims and a statutory duty for parents to protect their daughters from FGM. Those who fail to do so will face prosecution.

Tanya Barron, Plan UK's chief executive, said the poll's findings showed strong public support for prosecuting offenders but that there was a limit to how effective this could be on its own.
She added: "Legal sanction is just one part of a broader approach that includes educating parents about the health risks, tackling gender inequality and providing comprehensive support for survivors of the practice. "The primary goal is of course to protect children from harm."

Plan UK works around the world to tackle FGM, early marriage and other problems affecting children.

The survey was carried out by polling company YouGov and sampled the views of more than 2,200 adults.

Plan UK website : www.plan-uk.org/
 

(1st September 2014)

 


FGM VICTIM : MANY STILL DON'T REALISE SECRETIVE PRACTICE IS ILLEGAL HERE
(London Evening Standard, dated 7th August 2014 author Anna Davis)


A woman who was subjected to female genital mutilation when she was 11 years old said many victims are unaware the "secretive" practice is illegal.

Sarian Karim Kamara said she was initially excited to take part in the "Bondo" ritual in her homeland of Sierra Leone, where FGM is viewed as a girl's initiation into womanhood.
But the 36-year-old, who now lives in Peckham, said she had been "naive" and was left with complications when she gave birth later in life.
Ms Kamara, a mother of five children including four girls, welcomed the increase in FGM cases being investigated by some police forces.
But she added: "We should not forget this is a very secretive act and it's often underground.
"For the police to be investigating these cases, it shows lots of people are aware now and people working with women and children are confident to ask questions. If the prosecutions came it would be a good thing, but we want education.
"The fact people are realising how bad the practice is and its effect on girls and women like me, it's a positive thing. It's going to take time."
Ms Kamara, who works with Forward UK, a charity promoting the rights of African girls and women, was in labour for four days with her first child due to complications caused by FGM.
She was among 15 young girls to be "initiated" in Sierra Leone after being promised new clothes and gifts.
Describing her "traumatic" ordeal, Ms Kamara said: "When we got to the bush, I was blindfolded. I was taken into a separate room and pinned down.
"I was so young and naive that I did not know exactly what was removed until I was an adult."
She said the practice had been passed on from "generation to generation", adding: "People who are doing it to their children believe they are doing it for the right reasons. Most cannot read or write so they don't know it's against the law here.
"It's very important to point it out to them and let them know there is help if they find themselves being pressured by their family or the community."
 

(1st September 2014)

 


FOUR WAYS TO ERADICATE FGM IN A GENERATION
(London Evening Standard, dated 23rd July 2014 author Rosamund Urwin)

Full article : www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/four-ways-to-eradicate-fgm-in-a-generation-9622963.html

Yesterday, the Government set out its plan to end FGM in a generation. As part of the Girl Summit, the triumvirate of Prime Minister, Home Secretary and International Development Secretary outlined a package of new steps, which included new legislation that will enable parents to be prosecuted if they fail to prevent their daughters "being cut", and a £1.4 million programme, launched in partnership with NHS England, to help care for survivors and protect those at risk. But there is still more that can be done. Here are four additional proposals to help eradicate FGM within a generation - both for girls growing up overseas and in Britain.
 
Talk to the men

International Development Secretary Justine Greening argues it is essential that FGM isn't just seen as a problem for women to address - and that we must teach boys what a healthy relationship looks like.

"That's a long-term piece of work," says Greening. "It requires a national effort around how schools are run, and a community effort, with leaders reinforcing the message. At my local mosque [in Putney], they've run a campaign against FGM: real men don't think this is good."

Overseas, former DfID minister Stephen O'Brien says appeals must be made to community leaders (the vast majority of whom will be male) in areas where FGM is practised, and to encourage them to see eradicating FGM as a way of making their community appear "modern and up-to-date".

Find alternative incomes for the 'cutters'

The person performing FGM has a high status in the community, and will fight to keep the practice alive. Replacing that means of making money can therefore help to eliminate it.

"It's a high-level income for someone - usually a woman," explains O'Brien. "The other women are often very frightened of her - she will go to mothers and put pressure on them, saying, 'It is time for your daughter to be cut'. You can use public subsidy to find her other community work. That transforms things - we have evidence that proves this. But you must first have appealed to the community leader, otherwise a new 'cutter' will come along and fill the gap."

Involve the private sector

Eradicating FGM requires a "multi-agency approach", involving schools, hospitals and the police. But it could also involve business. Greening envisages three roles for companies: providing funding, working through their employees to challenge social norms and helping the Government to shape its anti-FGM message.

Another suggestion, proposed last year in the Evening Standard by midwife and FGM specialist Comfort Momoh, is for airlines to help raise awareness. Carriers could hand out leaflets to parents travelling with girls to countries where FGM is practised, outlining the health risks and the law.

"That would fit very well," says O'Brien. "Some people would be offended and shocked, but most people would realise that it's a method to get the message across."

Start the conversation

In the Seventies, a campaigner toured Kenya with a wooden vagina, using it to raise what was then even more of a taboo subject and to show the impact of FGM. She was a pioneer. Today, other campaigners and survivors have assumed her mantle (some armed with slightly controversial vagina-shaped cupcakes). Their voices must be heard and FGM must no longer be a taboo.

This conversation needs to be had in all affected countries, at every level. Lynne Featherstone, a DfID minister, points to the example of Kenya, where female parliamentarians persuaded their male counterparts to address FGM by showing them a video of the practice. Many of the male MPs were left in tears.

In the UK, this willingness to talk openly applies to the medical profession, to teachers and to the political class. We cannot afford to shy away from confronting FGM.

(9th August 2014) 


CAMERON : I'LL PUT LEGAL DUTY ON DOCTORS AND TEACHERS TO REPORT FGM
(London Evening Standard, dated 22nd July 2014 authors Anna Davies & Joe Murphy)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

Doctors, teachers and nurses will come under a legal duty to report cases of female genital mutilation, David Cameron announced today as he launched a historic summit in London.
 
The Prime Minister told the Evening Standard his aim was to smash the taboo around FGM and "bring it out into the open".

"No girl should have to experience the lifelong physical and psychological effects of female genital mutilation," he said.

Home Secretary Theresa May also announced that a specialist, cross-government unit would be created to lead the way in tackling the brutal practice. It will be similar to the forced marriage unit.

Today's Girl Summit, co-hosted by the Government and Unicef at  Walworth Academy in Lambeth, was called to galvanise international action to end the misery of children and young women subjected to FGM, forced marriage and other abuses around the world.

Mr Cameron said: "We are taking significant action but this abhorrent practice is largely hidden so I am putting a new mandatory duty on all health and education professionals to report FGM - to bring it out into the open so we can support more victims and bring more perpetrators to justice.

"I want to build a better future for all our girls and I am hosting the Girl Summit today so that we say with one voice - let's end these practices once and for all." FGM was a taboo subject in Britain until the Standard began publicising the plight of children who are cut 18 months ago.

Ms May said it was vital that the UK "maintains the momentum" on FGM, which is believed to affect 137,000 girls and women in this country.

"Legislation is not enough," the Home Secretary said. "We must do more to stop these harmful practices from happening in the first place by raising awareness, challenging social norms and protecting those at risk."

There will be a £1.4?million prevention programme aimed at ending both FGM and child marriage. Parents will face prosecution if they fail to stop their daughters undergoing FGM, and victims will be given lifelong anonymity.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said the new FGM unit will "drive a step change in nationwide outreach on FGM with criminal justice partners, children's services, healthcare professionals and affected communities".

Staff at the unit will conduct outreach work, inform professionals of what to do when confronted by the practice, and will publicise the NSPCC helpline dedicated to FGM.

Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development, opened the summit alongside Ms May. She said: "We need to take on the issues we have often instinctively shied away from in the past - female genital mutilation and child early forced marriage. Both rob girls of a childhood and future that could have been very different. It is not just a tragedy for girls themselves, but for their communities and countries who are robbed of their potential."

Ms Greening added: "Today is about young people and their aspirations, the millions of girls who get to adolescence when the world should be expanding and find it is shrinking. It is about giving girls freedom and choices." Ms May said: "We must continue to work together and challenge ourselves to think differently, find new ways of engaging with communities, and change attitudes.

"We are making progress. And today we are taking one more step on the road towards giving women a voice, and eradicating these harmful practices.

"Let the message of this summit be that together, we can bring an end to FGM and forced marriage."

(9th August 2014) 


135,000 FGM SURVIVORS IN THE UK, SAYS NEW STUDY
(New Stateman, dated 22nd July 2014 author Lucy Fisher)
www.newstatesman.com      [Option 1]

More than 135,000 women and girls in the UK are survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM), according to a new study. The figure is more than twice the previous official estimate by the NHS.

The report, produced by the City University London and human rights organisation Equality Now, estimated that more than 100,000 women aged 15 to 49 and around 24,000 women aged 50 and over who have migrated to England and Wales are living with the consequences of genital cutting.

It also predicted that 10,000 girls under the age of 15 have undergone FGM. Previous government figures predicted that 20,000 girls under the age of 15 may be at risk of the barbaric procedure. The new study revealed, however, that around 60,000 girls aged 0 to 14 were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone FGM, suggesting that the number at risk is far higher.

The study harvested information from surveys in 29 countries in which FGM is practised and cross-referenced it with data from the 2011 British census about women who had migrated from those countries. The number of victims of FGM could be even higher than estimated, as data from 2011 to 2014 was missing from the study.

Efua Dorkenoo, advisor on FGM to Equality Now, said: "The government need to get a handle over this extreme abuse of the most vulnerable girls in our society by implementing a robust national plan to address the issue.

"Professionals are crying out for clear cut guidance on referral pathways on early identification of girls potentially at risk and prevention; and protocols for documenting and sharing information on FGM between health, children social care, education and the police."

Today the government, in partnership with Unicef, is hosting Girl Summit 2014, the UK's first conference dedicated to tackling FGM and forced marriage.

Home Secretary Theresa May and International Development Secretary Justine Greening will be in attendance to announce new measures to tackle FGM at home and abroad.

In March this year the Prime Minister declared that tackling the "disgusting" practice of FGM would be "at the top of Britain's aid agenda" and said that efforts to prosecute cutters in the UK would be redoubled. He stated his goal to make the practice obsolete "within a generation".

(9th August 2014)
 


EXTRA FGM TRAINING FOR PUBLIC SECTOR STAFF
(BBC News, dated 21st July 2014)

Full article : www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28396889

Extra training is to be given to teachers, doctors and social workers to help them to identify and assist girls at risk of female genital mutilation.

It is among a package of measures being unveiled this week by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at a London summit.

New guidance about the practice will be part of compulsory training in public sector organisations.

Advice about FGM is already issued to many staff but professional bodies have called for a different approach.

The partial or total removal of external female genitalia is illegal in the UK but the practice occurs in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Mr Clegg will tell the Girl Summit being hosted by the government and the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef): "Without the right knowledge, skills and experience, people feel like they don't have the cultural understanding and authority to even talk about this practice honestly, never mind intervene when they're worried someone is vulnerable."

He will say: "Female genital mutilation is one of the oldest and the most extreme ways in which societies have sought to control the lives and bodies of generations of young women and girls.

"We're currently failing thousands of girls... central to tackling it are the doctors, nurses, teachers and legal professionals who need to be equipped to identify and support young women and girls at risk."

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "Controlling the lives and bodies of young women and girls through FGM has no place in modern Britain.

"The RCN has worked with the government on the development of training and guidance to help equip frontline staff with the skills they need to tackle this most sensitive of issues."

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, welcomed the government plans but said they had to be backed up with "resources and commitment" to ensure staff have access to the training.

Earlier this year, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said school staff needed more training to help them identity and protect girls at risk.

Female genital mutilation

- Includes "the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons"

- Practised in 29 countries in Africa and some countries in Asia and the Middle East

- An estimated three million girls and women worldwide are at risk each year
About 125 million victims estimated to be living with the consequences

- It is commonly carried out on young girls, often between infancy and the age of 15

- Often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, to prepare a girl or woman for adulthood and marriage and to ensure "pure femininity"

- Dangers include severe bleeding, problems urinating, infections, infertility and increased risk of newborn deaths in childbirth

- In December 2012, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution calling for all member states to ban the practice

World Health Organisation fact sheet:

www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/

(9th August 2014)
 


MPs ATTACK FAILURE TO STOP FGM AS A "SCANDAL"
(London Evening Standard, dated 2nd July 2014 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

The failure to prevent female genital mutilation in Britain will be condemned by MPs tomorrow as a "national scandal" that has led to thousands of girls suffering barbaric child abuse.
 
In a hard-hitting report, the Commons home affairs committee will criticise ministers, police, doctors, teachers and other public officials for allowing cutting, and further forms of illegal mutilation, to be inflicted on young victims.

The MPs will call for a national action plan and a raft of reforms to protect girls and bring perpetrators to justice. These are expected to include:

The introduction of "FGM protection orders", placing girls in danger under the protection of a court;

A possible new criminal offence that would make it illegal for doctors and others to fail to report mutilation;

Regular medical examination of girls who are deemed to be at "high risk" of of mutilation, and a right to anonymity for victims willing to testify in court.

A national publicity campaign stressing that FGM is child abuse and a serious crime.

Tomorrow's report follows an inquiry by MPs into the scale of FGM in Britain. More than 50 groups and individuals submitted evidence. Ministers, police, doctors, prosecutors and campaigners appeared before the committee.

Its conclusions are expected to include strong criticism of the failure of public agencies. Some of the harshest words will be directed at the medical profession, which will be condemned for its poor record on alerting police and other child protection staff after treating victims or girls at risk.

The Royal College of GPs, which failed to sign a recent agreement by leading medical organisations to improve their reporting procedures, is expected to be singled out for its lack of action.

The committee is expected to criticise headteachers for a widespread failure to read government guidance on how to combat FGM.

MPs are also set to urge ministers to make "personal, social and health education" compulsory in schools, to ensure that children in areas with a high prevalence of mutilation can be taught about its risks and consequences.

The committee, whose chairman Keith Vaz has previously expressed concern about lack of action by police and prosecutors, is expected to back several legal changes. These include closing a loophole under which people living here can escape prosecution if they are not permanent residents.

FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1985 but only two people have so far been charged with an offence. Both are still awaiting trial. 

Estimates suggest that as many as 66,000 women in England and Wales have suffered mutilation and at least 24,000 girls are at risk.

(9th August 2014) 

 


FAILURE TO STOP FGM IS A "NATIONAL DISGRACE" SAY MPs
(BBC News, dated 3rd July 2014)

Full article : www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28127678

The failure to tackle female genital mutilation (FGM) is a "national scandal" with as many as 170,000 victims in the UK, MPs have said.

Failures by ministers, police and other agencies have led to the "preventable mutilation of thousands of girls", the Home Affairs Committee said. It blamed a "misplaced concern for cultural sensitivities" for inaction, and called for a national action plan.

The government said it was working to end "this terrible form of abuse".The report called for greater anonymity for victims and protection orders to prevent girls from being taken abroad.

An estimated 65,000 girls under the age of 13 in the UK are at risk from FGM, the report said.

The practice has been illegal in Britain since 1985, but the first prosecutions - which are currently ongoing - were not until this year.

In France, however, "a large number of successful prosecutions has played a key role in discouraging the practice", the committee said.

The report said the police and Crown Prosecution Service had "historically been far too passive in their approach by waiting for survivors to come forward and report".

The MPs called for prosecutions to show the issue was being taken seriously in the UK and the implementation of a "comprehensive and fully-resourced" national action plan for dealing with it.

The record of healthcare professionals in referring cases to the authorities was described as "extremely poor". The committee said many in the education sector still needed to "overcome awkwardness" if they feared schoolgirls may be at risk, while the Association of Chief Police Officers had shown "a distinct lack of leadership", it said.

------------------------------------------

Analysis
(Naomi Grimley, BBC News)

MPs are the first to admit that FGM is an issue "surrounded in silence". Victims don't necessarily want to talk about what has happened to them and they might be even more reluctant to inform on parents.

One answer MPs have come up with is giving women the right to anonymity in court. This already exists for rape victims under the Sexual Offences Act 1992. The Home Affairs Committee says that law should be amended to cover women with FGM too.

Another suggestion from MPs is to make more use of protection orders whereby vulnerable girls are placed under the wing of the courts.

These are already in use for suspected cases of forced marriage - indeed 600 have been activated in that capacity. These might stop families taking girls overseas for illegal procedures as well as ensuring regular medical checks for the most "at risk" cases.

While anecdotal evidence suggested it was common for girls to be taken back to their country of origin during the school holidays to undergo the procedure, there was also evidence of FGM taking place in the UK, the report said.

Court protection orders - similar to the system used for suspected victims of forced marriage - were one of the committee's recommendations.

In line with practice in France, medical professionals should be able to make FGM assessments on girls thought to be at risk, the committee said.

'Act now'
 
If all else fails, the MPs called for it to be made an offence not to report child abuse.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: "FGM is an ongoing national scandal which is likely to have resulted in the preventable mutilation of thousands of girls to whom the state owed a duty of care.

"Successive governments, politicians, the police, health, education and social care sectors should all share responsibility for the failure in recent years to respond adequately to the growing prevalence of FGM in the UK. We need to act immediately.

"It is unacceptable that those with clear access to evidence of these crimes do nothing to help those at risk."

Crime prevention minister Norman Baker said the government was "already driving a step-change to end this extremely harmful and misguided practice".

"Earlier this year, ministers from across government signed a declaration to demonstrate their commitment to end this terrible form of abuse. We are working with religious and community leaders to forge a commitment to condemn FGM, and reaching out to communities to encourage them to seek help and advice and ultimately abandon the practice," he said.

He said the government was also working to protect foreign nationals in the UK who are taken overseas for FGM to be carried out.

Dr Comfort Momoh, a public health specialist at St Thomas's Hospital, in London, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there was a "lack of training" and a "lack of awareness" around the issue among health professionals.

She said: "If our so-called professionals don't have the knowledge, if our so-called professionals don't know how to identify groups who might be at risk, how do we expect the community to report cases to us?"

Prime Minister David Cameron is to host the UK's first Girl Summit, aimed at ending FGM within a generation, this summer, he said.

Female genital mutilation

- Includes "the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons"
- Practised in 29 countries in Africa and some countries in Asia and the Middle East
- An estimated three million girls and women worldwide are at risk each year
- About 125 million victims estimated to be living with the consequences
- It is commonly carried out on young girls, often between infancy and the age of 15
- Often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, to prepare a girl or woman for adulthood and marriage and to ensure "pure femininity"
- Dangers include severe bleeding, problems urinating, infections, infertility and increased risk of newborn deaths in childbirth
- In December 2012, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution calling for all member states to ban the practice

World Health Organisation (Fact sheet) : www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/

Further Information

The House of Commons, Home Affairs Committee 59 page Parliamentary Report :

www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmhaff/201/201.pdf

(3rd July 2014)


MPs ATTACK FAILURE TO STOP FGM AS A "SCANDAL"
(London Evening Standard, dated 2nd July 2014 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

The failure to prevent female genital mutilation in Britain will be condemned by MPs tomorrow as a "national scandal" that has led to thousands of girls suffering barbaric child abuse.
 
In a hard-hitting report, the Commons home affairs committee will criticise ministers, police, doctors, teachers and other public officials for allowing cutting, and further forms of illegal mutilation, to be inflicted on young victims.

The MPs will call for a national action plan and a raft of reforms to protect girls and bring perpetrators to justice. These are expected to include:

The introduction of "FGM protection orders", placing girls in danger under the protection of a court;

A possible new criminal offence that would make it illegal for doctors and others to fail to report mutilation;

Regular medical examination of girls who are deemed to be at "high risk" of of mutilation, and a right to anonymity for victims willing to testify in court.

A national publicity campaign stressing that FGM is child abuse and a serious crime.

Tomorrow's report follows an inquiry by MPs into the scale of FGM in Britain. More than 50 groups and individuals submitted evidence. Ministers, police, doctors, prosecutors and campaigners appeared before the committee.

Its conclusions are expected to include strong criticism of the failure of public agencies. Some of the harshest words will be directed at the medical profession, which will be condemned for its poor record on alerting police and other child protection staff after treating victims or girls at risk.

The Royal College of GPs, which failed to sign a recent agreement by leading medical organisations to improve their reporting procedures, is expected to be singled out for its lack of action.

The committee is expected to criticise headteachers for a widespread failure to read government guidance on how to combat FGM.

MPs are also set to urge ministers to make "personal, social and health education" compulsory in schools, to ensure that children in areas with a high prevalence of mutilation can be taught about its risks and consequences.

The committee, whose chairman Keith Vaz has previously expressed concern about lack of action by police and prosecutors, is expected to back several legal changes. These include closing a loophole under which people living here can escape prosecution if they are not permanent residents.

FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1985 but only two people have so far been charged with an offence. Both are still awaiting trial. 

Estimates suggest that as many as 66,000 women in England and Wales have suffered mutilation and at least 24,000 girls are at risk.

(3rd July 2014)


JUSTINE GREENING BACKS PETITION TO END DEGRADING FGM
(London Evening Standard, dated 25th June 2014 author Anna Davis)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

Londoners are being urged to sign up to a new online campaign by pledging to end female genital mutilation and forced marriage.
 
Justine Greening, secretary of state for international development, urged Evening Standard readers to join the drive on Facebook and Twitter.

The campaign was launched in the run up to Prime Minister David Cameron's Girl Summit 2014 next month and aims to rally a global movement to end FGM and forced marriage at home and abroad within a generation.

Justine Greening, said: "The Evening Standard has shone a light on these harmful and degrading practices and now readers can join our campaign to end them for ever.

"We are asking people to take a stand against FGM and child marriage at home and abroad by taking this pledge and making their voices heard at the Girl Summit 2014."

People are being asked to log on to a new pledge page website and sign in via Facebook and Twitter. Hundreds of high profile campaigners including heads of state and celebrities will come to the Girl Summit. It will mark out the UK as the country leading the fight against violence against women.

The summit is designed to make the most of the momentum built up by anti-FGM campaigns such as the one run in the Evening Standard.

Last year the Government launched a £35?million programme to work in 17 countries supporting the movement to end FGM. Ms Greening said she wants to replicate the success of the anti-FGM campaigns with work against early marriage.

A spokesman for the department for international development said: "We are asking people to sign up to this because we want to help preserve girls' childhoods, promote their education, reduce their exposure to violence and abuse, and allow them to fulfil their potential."

Fighting FGM (Evening Standard - Comment)

Justine Greening,Secretary of State for International Development, is calling on Londoners to join the campaign against FGM through social media. A new online campaign will culminate in the Government's Girl Summit 2014 next month, which addresses the problem of both FGM and early marriage. These practices blight young girls' lives, the first by harming their sexual and physical wellbeing, the second by denying them the chances of improving their lives through education and work. Indeed, the most potent instrument in fighting both in through the provision of decent schooling for girls in African societies where they are most at risk. We urge our readers to join in at :


www.girlsummitpledge.com

(3rd July 2014)


THE MUSLIM COUNCIL OF BRITAIN - BARBARIC PRACTICE OF FGM IS UN-ISLAMIC
(London Evening Standard, dated 20th June 2014 author Martin Bentham)

Article link : www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/the-muslim-council-of-britain-barbaric-practice-of-fgm-is-unislamic-9551258.html

Britain's most prominent Muslim organisation today announced a new drive to tell its followers that female genital mutilation is contrary to Islam and should be shunned to save girls from serious damage to their health.
 
The Muslim Council of Britain said that it would distribute leaflets in mosques and community centres across the country as it threw its support behind the campaign to end the barbaric practice.

It said that it was "not true" that mutilation was a Muslim requirement and that instead one of the "basic principles" of Islam was that followers should not harm themselves or others.

It added that FGM was bringing Islam "into disrepute" and could cause severe pain, bleeding, problems in pregnancy and even death, as well leaving some victims with lasting pyschological problems.

Announcing today's move, which  will be welcomed by campaigners as a major breakthrough in the fight against FGM, Dr Shuja Shafi, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that the leaflet would be displayed at more than 500 mosques and community centres nationwide.

He added: "We at the MCB are pleased to address this very important issue of female genital mutilation. Working closely together we can end this practice and ensure it is no longer linked to the religion of Islam or the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad."

Dr Soheir Elneil, the chairwoman of the African women's campaign group Forward, which helped to prepare the leaflet, said the publication was an important step forward in the battle to protect girls.

"This is the first time such a publication has been achieved with the full cooperation and support of the relevant parties, and we hope all those working in FGM will find it a helpful tool in the work that they do.

"It states that FGM is non-Islamic and is against the teachings of Islam, that it is putting the health of women and girls at risk, and informs the reader of the legal implications in the UK of carrying out the practice."

The new leaflet states: "FGM is not an Islamic requirement. There is no reference to it in the Holy Qu'ran that states girls must be circumcised. Nor is there any authentic reference to this in the Sunnah, the sayings or traditions of our Prophet. FGM is bringing the religion of Islam into disrepute."

The document also warns that there is "an increasingly high risk of being prosecuted" for carrying out mutilation, which has been illegal in this country since 1985, and that perpetrators face up to 14 years in prison.

Today's announcement follows a Home Office summit yesterday at which other religious organisations, including the Shia al-Khoei Foundation and the Muslim Women's Network UK, announced their support for a government declaration against FGM to be published next month.

(3rd July 2014)


FOREIGNERS WHO TAKE GIRLS ABROAD FOR FGM TO FACE 14 YEARS JAIL
(London Evening Standard, dated 4th June 2014 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

Foreign citizens living in Britain who take their daughters overseas to undergo female genital mutilation will face up to 14 years in prison under plans for new legislation announced today.
 
The reform is designed to close a gap in the existing law outlawing FGM which means that foreigners who are living here, but have no official right to remain in the country permanently, cannot be taken to court for inflicting mutilation. The move was announced in the Queen's Speech, which also pledged that the UK will lead a global campaign to prevent sexual violence in war zones.

The change to FGM laws follows concern that some suspected offenders are escaping justice, including a recent case in which the alleged perpetrators were questioned on suspicion of taking a girl less than two months old to undergo FGM abroad.

Prosecutors decided that it was impossible to bring charges because neither the suspects nor the victim had a permanent right to be in this country at the time of incident - even though all now live here and were temporary residents when the cutting was carried out.

To prevent this, the new law will make it a crime for any overseas national who is "habitually resident" in Britain to carry out or assist in the mutilation of a girl from this country.

It will also make it illegal to inflict FGM on a foreign-born girl who is "habitually resident" here, even if she is not a British citizen, or to assist in having mutilation carried out.

Justice Minister Damian Green said the changes would increase the protection offered to girls living in Britain. He added: "The Government is committed to tackling and preventing the harmful and unacceptable practice of female genital mutilation.

"Legislation alone cannot eradicate this terrible practice. But it is important that we change the law where necessary."

The term "habitually resident" covers a person's ordinary country of residence. It does not cover temporary visitors, but means that those who have been living here for a substantial period of time will be subject to the new law even if they have yet to qualify for a permanent right to stay.

Offenders will face the same maximum 14-year penalty that applies to British citizens.

Ministers today also said that Britain is driving a worldwide campaign to stop rape being used as a weapon of war. Foreign Secretary William Hague and actress Angelina Jolie are holding a summit next week on tackling sexual violence in conflicts.

(3rd July 2014)


FGM PARENTS ARE HAVING GIRLS CUT AT A YOUNGER AGE
(London Evening Standard, dated 27th May 2014 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk  [Option 1]

Growing numbers of babies and toddlers are suffering female genital mutilation as parents adopt new tactics to avoid detection, the country's leading children's charity warned today.
 
The NSPCC said it believed that parents were having girls cut at a younger age after getting "smart" to the fact that the authorities were focusing on the threat faced by older children.

It said it had received reports from health staff of one and two-year-olds and "even babies" being victims.

The charity added that there was no doubt that FGM remained an "ongoing practice" in this country and that the number of cases uncovered so far was the "tip of the iceberg".

The NSPCC revealed that it has received 215 calls to an FGM helpline that it set up last June, of which 96 have led to referrals to police.

The calls include one from a social worker concerned about a girl who had been taken for an unplanned holiday to Sudan and had returned wearing a nappy and complaining of severe abdominal pain.

Another involved a girl who was absent from school for several months in Nigeria and returned with a "changed demeanour" and suffering from painful trips to the lavatory.

Although neither case has yet to result in a prosecution, the Met has welcomed the greater flow of information as it seeks to build a better picture about the way the crime is carried out. The NSPCC said it was concerned that the focus on the risk to schoolgirls was prompting some parents to take children for mutilation at a younger age.

John Cameron, the charity's head of child protection, said: "Families are starting to get smart about this. They are getting the message that all the agencies are focusing on children who are a bit older so people are now beginning to get children cut at a much younger age… I have heard from my health colleagues of very young children being cut, even babies."

The NSPCC says health visitors, nursery staff, childminders and others should be advised to be alert to the risk of FGM. It also advocates teaching primary school pupils that their "private parts" should not be harmed by others.

It appeals to anyone with concerns that a child might be a potential victim of FGM, or anyone seeking advice about the problem, to contact its free helpline on 0800 028 3550.

•Leading Muslim groups have described the fight against FGM as "our jihad" as they prepare to distribute thousands of leaflets to stop the practice "bringing Islam into disrepute". They will be distributed to mosques, community centres and schools by the London-based groups next month. The leaflets state: "FGM is not an Islamic requirement."

Full article

www.standard.co.uk/news/health/fgm-parents-are-having-girls-cut-at-younger-age-9440144.html

(3rd July 2014)

 


MORE THAN HALF OF SCHOOL HEADS FAIL TO READ OFFICIAL FGM GUIDANCE
(London Evening Standard, dated 22nd May 2014 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

Less than half of headteachers in London have read official guidance on stopping female genital mutilation, new figures revealed today.
 
The guidance, which tells teachers how to identify girls who are at risk or who have suffered mutilation, was emailed to every school in the country. But data from the Department for Education shows that only 56 per cent of heads in the capital even opened the email after it was sent to them by Education Secretary Michael Gove last month.

An even lower proportion - 45 per cent - then "clicked through" to read the guidance , meaning that headteachers in 1,724 London schools have ignored the effort to prevent the abuse.

Today's figures, which also reveal that in some boroughs fewer than one in five heads has read the guidance, prompted renewed warnings from MPs and campaigners that schools are failing to take sufficient action to protect girls from mutilation. Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into FGM, said that the response of London heads was "dreadful" and called on the Education Secretary to ensure that the guidance was read by all staff.

"I am deeply concerned by how few headteachers have even opened the email from Michael Gove," he said. "A second email must be sent which is marked urgent and shows that it includes information on possible child abuse in their schools. It is imperative that this guidance reaches the frontline."

Today's figures, obtained by the Evening Standard via a Freedom of Information request, show that Mr Gove's guidance on FGM was sent to 2,922 headteachers in London. Of these, 1,534 opened the email, but only 1,198 "clicked through" to read it.

Further statistics for each London borough show that the response rate has been significantly worse in some areas, including several containing large  numbers of girls from communities that have traditionally practised FGM. In Hackney, for example, only 25 per cent of the 91 heads read the guidance, while in Lambeth and Southwark the proportion who did so was only 34 per cent.

The worst performing boroughs were Barking and Dagenham, where only 13 per cent of heads read the guidance, and Hillingdon, where the figure was 17 per cent. The only boroughs in which more than half of heads read the guidance were Bexley, which had a 63 per cent take-up rate, Bromley and Sutton.

Nimco Ali, from the Daughters of Eve campaign group and one of the FGM victims who met Mr Gove to lobby for the new guidance, said the figures showed that headteachers were ignoring the problem of mutilation and adding to the risks that girls faced.

"These figures are disappointing and again show the reality that headteachers see the protection of girls as someone else's issue," she said. "For protection to become a reality, head teachers need to take the issue seriously." The DfE said that a website page containing the guidance had been viewed more than 65,000 times and that five tweets that it had published about the document had reached hundreds of thousands of Twitter users.

It added that further measures to highlight the need to protect girls from FGM had also been taken.

Note

Actual numbers by borough can be seen in the full article :

www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/more-than-half-of-school-heads-fail-to-read-official-fgm-guidance-9416201.html

(3rd July 2014)

 


LONDON'S FIGHT TO END FGM
(London Evening Standard, dated 15th May 2014 author Anna Davis)
www.standard.co.uk    [Option 1]
 
David Cameron will invite hundreds of high-profile anti-FGM campaigners from across the world to a major summit in London this summer.
 
The Prime Minister, below, is hosting the first ever "girls' summit" to galvanise efforts to end female genital mutilation and forced marriage. More than 600 people are expected to travel to London for the event in July, including heads of state and celebrities. It will mark out the UK as the country leading the way in the fight against violence against women.
 
The summit is designed to make the most of the momentum built up by anti-FGM campaigns such as the one run in the Evening Standard.
 
It is understood that Downing Street will use the meeting to accelerate "an ambitious package of policies" to crack down on crimes including FGM and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) - with a view to building a global agreement to end the crimes in a generation. The one-day summit will bring together political leaders, young people and activists in workshops and debates.
 
Cameron has previously resolved to put FGM and forced marriage "at the top of Britain's aid agenda". In the UK alone, more than 20,000 girls are at risk of each year.
 
Justine Greening, below, the International Development Secretary, says: "[The meeting] will be the UK really starting to lead the way in putting an end to violence against women and girls here and abroad. The Prime Minister is stepping up to the plate and showing his leadership and determination to tackle both of these issues."
 
Last year the Government launched a £35?million programme to work in 17 countries supporting the movement to end FGM. Greening adds that she wants to replicate the success of the anti-FGM campaigns with work against early marriage. The UK is already the world's biggest supporter of activity to end FGM.


(3rd July 2014)

 


FGM GIRLS BEING CUT IN BRITAIN AS OFTEN AS ABROAD - SAYS MET CHIEF
(London Evening Standard, dated 9th May 2014 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

Scotland Yard chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe warned today that the number of girls suffering female genital mutilation in Britain could be as high as the total taken abroad to be cut.
 
The Met Commissioner said he believed that "thousands" of girls from this country, some as young as three, were being subjected to the barbaric practice each year.

He said some were flown to countries such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Dubai to have parts of their genitals removed by foreign cutters - but information provided to the Met suggested that equally large numbers of girls were being mutilated in the UK.

"It is difficult to be precise, but I think there are at least as many girls injured in this country as there are abroad," Sir Bernard said.

"This is a terrible situation for young girls. So our strategy is to target the cutters. They are hurting a lot of people and making profit from it. We realise why sometimes people don't want to complain against parents, but I think there's no excuse for them to fail to give information about cutters."

Sir Bernard's comments came as the Met began a new anti-FGM campaign at Heathrow and other major airports focusing on flights to and from countries where the practice is widespread.

One aim is to ensure that parents and others are aware that although mutilation is legal in some countries, it is a crime to cut a girl from Britain, even if the operation takes place abroad.

The campaign, to be conducted with the National Crime Agency and the UK Border Force, will also seek to deter potential offenders and gather information about people involved in the illegal practice. Baggage searches and other "intelligence-led" checks will be carried out on those suspected of planning or carrying out mutilation.

Sir Bernard said his force also wanted to change attitudes among men and religious leaders in affected communities and to receive more tip-offs from doctors and teachers.

He added: "This procedure is carried out believing that men desire it in girls or women that they might eventually marry. So we need men to make clear that they don't want this to happen and we need imams to do it too. Some people need to be educated. We can't change culture just through the law."

He said he had been shown footage of a three-year-old girl being cut abroad and that although there were no accurate figures, police believed that mutilation continued to be rife.

FGM was made illegal in Britain in 1985. Further legislation in 2003 also made it a crime to take a girl abroad to be cut. Only two people have so far been charged with offences.

(3rd July 2014)

 


ANTI-FGM CAMPAIGN AT UK AIRPORTS SEEKS TO STOP MUTILATION OF GIRLS
(The Guardian, dated 9th May 2014 author Sandra Laville)
www.guardian.co.uk [Option 1]

Police and UK border officials have been runnning a campaign at airports nationwide to intercept families who could have taken their children abroad for female genital mutilation.

The campaign, designed to raise awareness and promote a zero-tolerance approach to the crime, has been in operation over the last seven days at various airports, including Heathrow.

Police and border officials have stopped families suspected of possibly going abroad for FGM to be performed on young girls, as well as families returning to the UK after cutting of a child's body might have taken place.

Keith Niven, detective chief superintendent at the Met's command dealing with sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse, said: "FGM is illegal and constitutes child abuse. Many communities are familiar with the practice but not of its health risks, the fact that it is illegal within the UK, or that there is no religious basis to it.

"By holding this week of action we intend to raise awareness within communities where these offences are prevalent, by engaging with passengers travelling to and from countries where FGM is practised.

"We hope to educate and prevent anyone who [might] engage in this practice, as well as highlight the support that is available for victims subjected to this horrific offence."

Officers were briefed on what to look for with families returning from area where FGM is performed; the countries included Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Kenya.

Natalie Reseigh, a detective constable, told officers that young girls could often be identified as victims if dressed as "little divas" having undergone what was seen in their culture as a female initiation ceremony.

FGM is allegedly carried out to safeguard a young woman's virginity and her family's honour, and can involve a festival or celebration as part of the ceremony.

"Their dress will be noticeable," she said, of likely victims. "She looks like a mini diva with heels on her shoes, make-up, and wearing beads. Often they are wearing blue make-up. The beads are very symbolic and are put on after the celebration to show the initiation has taken place.

"These girls will still be sore, they may be withdrawn, distanced from their family."

Often the relatives returning with a girl who had been cut were solely female family members, including the mothers, Reseigh added.

The police worked on Thursday with FGM survivors at Heathrow airport, concentrating on two arrivals - British Airways flights from Abuja in Nigeria, and from Sierra Leone.

Hawa Sesay, an FGM survivor, who runs the charity Hawa Trust, said she was put through the procedure at the age of 13 in her home country of Sierra Leone by her aunt.

"Can you imagine it, one knife is used to cut 15 girls - it can transmit HIV, it can transmit other diseases. After cutting in Sierra Leone a lot of girls are left HIV positive. There are serious health issues for the girls who are coming back and who have been cut.

"I have worked with the police and addressed people boarding flights to Nigeria and Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Cairo, this week. I tell them that I am a victim, and now I am a survivor. I tell them that in this country it is forbidden and you can get 14 years in prison if you go out and get it done to your daughter.

"We try and educate them first. I know that when the women got on to the flight to Sierra Leone this week, after we had spoken to them, they would all have been talking on board about what we said, and maybe it has changed some minds.

"First we try and educate them, but if they come back and it has been done to a child, then action has to be taken."

Sariam Kamara, of Forward UK, who was also working with the Met at Heathrow, said: "This is about safeguarding. You might talk to a family coming in and it might be too late, but it will send a clear message out there because people

discuss this in their communities afterwards. I am sure the message is being received. We have to target the people going to those countries where FGM happens.

"Most of them do it not with the knowledge that it's against the law here. They do it out of love because it's been passed on from generation to generation. They believe they are doing the right thing for that child.

"But we have to show there is a zero-tolerance approach here. As survivors we have to speak out and explain how this has affected us as a child and as an individual."

Samantha Rigler, head of the Border Force Heathrow safeguarding and trafficking team, said the UK Border Agency was providing intelligence and doing additional checks on passengers in support of the operation.

"We are clear that FGM is child abuse, it is illegal and there can be no excuse for it," she said. "Through operations like this we will continue to work with the Metropolitan police service to identify and protect victims or potential victims, and stop the perpetrators."

(3rd July 2014)

 


IMMIGRANTS - SHOULD SIGN FGM DECLARATION BEFORE ENTERING UK
(London Evening Standard, dated 8th May 2014 author Anna Davis

Full article : http://www.standard.co.uk/news/health/immigrants-should-sign-fgm-declaration-before-entering-uk-9336296.html

Campaigners called for immigrants to be required to sign a declaration promising not to subject their daughters to genital mutilation before being allowed into Britain.
 
Leading figures in the fight against FGM called for a special pledge to be brought in to ensure everybody is clear that the practice is against the law.

London MEP Marina Yannakoudakis said she will raise the issue with the government and called for more research to identify other countries that have introduced declarations.

The idea of an FGM declaration was raised at a meeting of prominent London campaigners, organised by Ms Yannakoudakis to give their views on various anti-FGM initiatives.

She said: "As people choose to move to Britain or elsewhere in Europe, it seems relevant to remind them of the social standards that apply here.

"That should include an acceptance that certain practices are not only unacceptable but illegal. This proposal will form part of a package of recommendations which I plan to send to the UK Government and EU Commission."

Academics, activists and charities including Manor Gardens in Islington and the Asian Women's Network attended the conference yesterday.

Professor Hazel Barrett of Coventry University warned against relying solely on a declaration, because it could become a "well intentioned piece of paper".

She warned it might encourage families to have girls cut before coming to the EU. It could also confuse matters for families who do not sign the pledge and so may feel they can go ahead and perform FGM on their daughters.

She instead called for immigrants to attend an anti-FGM workshop to explain the law, and for them to be given a "cultural mentor" who can explain the consequences.

She added: "Some signed paperwork that they have understood the legal situation could be a real deterrent as it could be used in any safeguarding or prosecution cases concerning these families." The group was unanimously against physically examining young girls to ensure they have not undergone FGM. This is common in France, but London campaigners said the experience could be traumatic for children and parents would not agree to it.

The group also said FGM should be taught in secondary schools, but could be too traumatic for primary schools.

Ms Yannakoudakis said: "It is clear that if any initiatives on FGM are to work, they have to be run in co-operation with the relevant communities - otherwise they seem like something imposed rather than something to be embraced. Securing the support of influential figures and leaders is crucial in turning community awareness into action."

(3rd July 2014)  


FGM PARTIES BEING HELD IN UK - MPs TOLD
(The guardian, dated 6th May 2014 author Alan Travis)
www.guardian.co.uk  [Option 1]

The cutting of girls at female genital mutilation "parties" is still going on in Britain and not just taking place abroad, healthcare experts have told MPs.

The Commons home affairs select committee has heard that "cutters" - often older women - are flown into Britain for the events, at which as many as a dozen girls may be operated on.

Janet Fyle, of the Royal College of Midwives, said that by the time the authorities could be alerted, the cutter would have left. "By the time the girls are cut, the woman 'cutter' is on her flight back to the country she came from. We can't go after the cutter. We don't know who she or he is. The parents have to be held responsible," she said.

Professor Janice Rymer, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, shared Fyle's belief that FGM was happening in Britain. Asked about its scale, she said: "We have no idea. We have no data but I am sure it is happening in this country."

The MPs also heard evidence that 75 to 80 women were undergoing FGM reversal operations in Britain each year.

The line of questioning by the MPs in the final evidence session of their inquiry into FGM suggested that their report is likely to recommend that healthcare professionals be placed under a new statutory duty to report cases to the police.

The health experts were asked for their response to a television and poster campaign to raise awareness of FGM, and to a requirement that any girls who faced a risk of mutilation should have it recorded in their paediatric "red book", which is issued to every child in Britain.

The MPs heard from French legal experts that statutory reporting to the police was required in France and that those responsible for mutilating girls had been jailed for up to eight years.

The first person to be charged under Britain's FGM laws appeared at the Old Bailey last week. Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena, 31, is accused of carrying out the procedure on a woman after she gave birth at Whittington hospital in Archway, north London, on 24 November 2012.

Scotland Yard has launched a campaign to prevent girls being flown abroad to be mutilated, senior officers told the select committee. They blamed the lack of prosecutions over the past 20 years on healthcare professionals for failing to report cases to the police.

However, Professor Nigel Mathers, of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said on Tuesday that police were not putting the blame in the right place.

He said it was not necessary to place a statutory duty on doctors to report cases of FGM because they were already under a statutory obligation to report cases of child abuse, and FGM was a form of this: "The difficulty is in identifying those involved," he said.

His concerns was supported by Rymer, who said that she agreed with statutory reporting in principle, but that most cases encountered by gynaecologists and obstetricians involved pregnant women in their 20s who had been cut 16 or so years before.

But she was told by the committee chair, Keith Vaz, that he had no sympathy with that position and it was for the director of public prosecutions, not healthcare professionals, to decide whether a prosecution should proceed in such circumstances.

(3rd July 2014)

 


BRITISH GIRLS FLOWN TO SINGAPORE AND DUBAI FOR "MEDICALISED" FGM
(London Evening Standard, dated 14th May 2014 author Anna Davis)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

British girls are being flown to Dubai and Singapore for a more "medicalised" form of female genital mutilation, experts have claimed.

Professor Hazel Barrett, of Coventry University, said that some people were flying there because they thought the procedure would be done in a more sterile environment than in their African mother countries. She warned that the

emphasis on stopping families flying to Africa to cut girls meant those who chose to go elsewhere could be getting away with it. Professor Barrett said: "The messages are coming through that it's bad for your health. "But instead of it being a deterrent they are looking to medicalise it,  for somewhere to go where it's done more 'safely'. "It has been mentioned to us there are countries in the Middle East and Far East where people from Europe and the UK can go and get it done."

She added: "It is done by someone with medical training. It could be in a clinic or a bedroom or a front room, as opposed to a traditional excisor [in African countries] who does one girl after the other.

"We need to publicise this more to alert people - we are not just talking about doing it in the bush with a  razor blade."

A spokesman for the Orchid Project, which campaigns against cutting girls, said it is not illegal in the United Arab Emirates but the ministry of health prohibits it in state hospitals and clinics.  It is not believed there are any laws prohibiting it in Singapore.

Julia Lalla-Maharajh, chief executive and founder of Orchid Project, said: "When female genital cutting is done by medical practitioners it carries the risk of the practice being seen as more 'acceptable', however the outcomes for the girl are still the same - she still is cut, still might have horrendous complications and her rights will still have been violated.

"Unfortunately, the medicalisation of the practice is on the rise and it must be stemmed."

The Met police have launched an anti-FGM campaign at Heathrow and other major airports, focusing on flights to and from countries where the practice is widespread.

A Met spokeswoman said: "We are aware that the issue is apparently wider than African countries; our problem is there is no accurate current profile.

"We are not excluding other countries but when considering flights we do focus on those that are carrying families.

For example a lot of the Middle East flights are business flights so do not have the right demographic."

(3rd July 2014)


FOREIGNERS WHO TAKE GIRLS ABROAD FOR FGM TO FACE 14 YEARS JAIL
(London Evening Standard, dated 4th June 2014 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

Foreign citizens living in Britain who take their daughters overseas to undergo female genital mutilation will face up to 14 years in prison under plans for new legislation announced today.
 
The reform is designed to close a gap in the existing law outlawing FGM which means that foreigners who are living here, but have no official right to remain in the country permanently, cannot be taken to court for inflicting mutilation. The move was announced in the Queen's Speech, which also pledged that the UK will lead a global campaign to prevent sexual violence in war zones.

The change to FGM laws follows concern that some suspected offenders are escaping justice, including a recent case in which the alleged perpetrators were questioned on suspicion of taking a girl less than two months old to undergo FGM abroad.

Prosecutors decided that it was impossible to bring charges because neither the suspects nor the victim had a permanent right to be in this country at the time of incident - even though all now live here and were temporary residents when the cutting was carried out.

To prevent this, the new law will make it a crime for any overseas national who is "habitually resident" in Britain to carry out or assist in the mutilation of a girl from this country.

It will also make it illegal to inflict FGM on a foreign-born girl who is "habitually resident" here, even if she is not a British citizen, or to assist in having mutilation carried out.

Justice Minister Damian Green said the changes would increase the protection offered to girls living in Britain. He added: "The Government is committed to tackling and preventing the harmful and unacceptable practice of female genital mutilation.

"Legislation alone cannot eradicate this terrible practice. But it is important that we change the law where necessary."

The term "habitually resident" covers a person's ordinary country of residence. It does not cover temporary visitors, but means that those who have been living here for a substantial period of time will be subject to the new law even if they have yet to qualify for a permanent right to stay.

Offenders will face the same maximum 14-year penalty that applies to British citizens.

Ministers today also said that Britain is driving a worldwide campaign to stop rape being used as a weapon of war. Foreign Secretary William Hague and actress Angelina Jolie are holding a summit next week on tackling sexual violence in conflicts.

(3rd July 2014)


TEACH DANGERS OF FGM IN CLASS TO GIVE VICTIMS COURAGE TO TALK
(London Evening Standard, dated 30th April 2014 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk  [Option 1]

Scotland Yard's top child abuse detective wants the dangers of female genital mutilation to be put on the school curriculum, to give "terrified" victims the confidence to speak out.
 
Detective Chief Inspector Keith Niven told MPs that tuition was needed in class because mutilation was so "normalised" in some families and communities, some girls were unaware the barbaric practice was illegal.

He said the only way to "break the cycle" was to include FGM in lessons and create an environment in which those affected felt comfortable. Unless the change was made, mutilation was likely to remain a "huge problem" for at least another decade, he added.

He appeared before the Commons home affairs committee, which is holding an inquiry into the scale of FGM in Britain, and potential solutions.

MPs also heard calls for mandatory medical checks on girls at risk of mutilation. And Met Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley criticised the "bizarre" lack of information from the health service about suspected cases.

Mr Niven, head of Scotland Yard's child and sexual abuse command, said: "I work very closely with prominent [community] leaders. The trouble is that there is an honestly held belief that this is a practice that should take place. That belief is held by certain community members and certain families.

"Girls are terrified to talk about it, it's been normalised in some communities. Unless we break that cycle we could be having this conversation in 10 years' time. This is where education has to play a key part.

"We need to get into schools, an environment where girls feel comfortable to discuss these issues. When this discussion starts to take place, the police will start to find out that information. At the moment it's locked down."

Mr Niven added: "We have to break the cycle. We can only do that by making it on the curriculum - personal and social health education. Some girls don't even know that it's illegal. There is a huge problem here."

So far, only two people have been charged with alleged mutilation offences, despite FGM becoming illegal in 1985. Mr Niven said victims were often unwilling to testify and in one recent case a girl had threatened suicide if her parent was prosecuted.

In other evidence, Home Office minister Norman Baker indicated his opposition to mandatory medical checks on girls at risk, saying it would be "hugely intrusive". He said ministers were working to change "hearts and minds".

Mr Baker and Mr Niven praised the Standard's campaign to prevent FGM. Committee member Michael Ellis said the Standard had "led on this issue".

(2nd June 2014)

 


POLICE VISIT AIRPORTS TO WARN OF FGM CASES ABROAD
(London Evening Standard, dated 29th April 2014 author Justin Davenport)
www.standard.co.uk  [Option 1]

Police are to mount a nationwide operation at British airports to warn parents about taking their children abroad to undergo female genital mutiliation.
 
Officers will conduct a week of handing out leaflets warning that FGM is a criminal offence, as well as intervening with families on their return if it is suspected that children have been harmed.

Officers from around 10 forces, including Scotland Yard's specialist FGM unit, and charities will be involved in the operation.

Passengers travelling directly to countries such as Sierra Leone and Somalia will be given leaflets but those flying out of regional airports to connect with flights to Africa will also be approached.

Met Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said: "This will be about educating people who are going out to countries where FGM is practised but it will also involve flights returning to the UK where we have intelligence that gives us some concern."

He also revealed that police in London are investigating four more cases of alleged FGM which have been reported recently.

Despite efforts to encourage teachers and health officials to report FGM, he said there had not been a significant rise in cases referred to police. In total 69 cases were referred last year. There have been 29 referrals so far this year, only a slight rise.

So far no-one has been convicted of FGM in the UK though two people, one a London doctor, have been charged with associated offences and are awaiting trial.

(2nd June 2014)
 

 


I AM A CUTTER AND I WILL TAKE A RAZOR TO MY DAUGHTER IN THE HOLIDAYS
(London Evening Standard, dated 17th April 2014 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

Somali cutter sat with her 10-year-old daughter beside her and explained calmly why she will take a razor blade to her this summer. "I am a circumciser," she declared. "This young one I haven't circumcised yet, but my other daughters are circumcised. I will circumcise her in the school holidays in June or July.
 
"I believe that she will not get married if I don't circumcise her. At the same time, it is important for me because I'm a circumciser and people will not trust me if I don't do it with my own daughter. It would be shameful. They would say, 'you are doing it to our daughters, but you are not doing it to your own'. I will also do it for cultural reasons because people will talk otherwise and say she has not been circumcised."

The logic of Khadija Geedi, a 50-year-old cutter in Somaliland, appeared flawless but her seeming indifference to the pain she will inflict on her daughter Fihiima was unsettling, as the pair sat together on the floor of their home in the rural village of Baki. As Ms Geedi explained, however, the bloody procedure that she will carry out on Fihiima this summer is a routine task to which she has become inured after a career as a "traditional birth attendant" lasting three decades.

"I started doing this when I was 20 and I can't calculate how many I have done," she says, adding that her price for cutting is $15 a time. On average now I do 10-15 a month, but sometimes it can be 30 or 35. In towns I do it mainly during the school holidays. In the rural places it depends when  they have enough girls ready to be  circumcised.

"I use a blade, some material to stop the bleeding and some local anaesthetic. I go to the local health centre to get them. Before I used to remove all the clitoris and all the labia, major and minor, and sew them. Now I only remove the clitoris. I changed about 10 years ago."

Ms Geedi says her decision to switch to the less extensive type of mutilation, known as "sunna" in Somaliland, followed a move by clerics to revise their religious guidance and declare the alternative "pharaonic" form as  contrary to Islam.

"When I heard the sheikhs say that it is forbidden to do the pharaonic type I stopped, but I still do the sunna one. In Islam, that is okay - it says that we can do that," she said.

By contrast, efforts by the Somaliland government, local campaigners and aid organisations such as the charity World Vision to emphasise the damaging health consequences of mutilation have had no impact.

Neither does she worry about inflicting pain on her clients' daughters, insisting that her need to earn a living must prevail.

"The health workers gave us health advice about FGM," she said, "but I don't feel any trouble doing it because it is my profession. Although I know the girl is feeling pain, it is my profession and I am doing what the mother wants. I don't have any choice. I have no other way of earning a living. I need the money to live and pay for my  family. So how can I feel for the girl?"

Ms Geedi says the cutting should take about half an hour but admits that resistance frequently means it can last longer.

"Typically, the girls are aged 10 or 11. The youngest I have done was six years old," she said. "It usually takes about 30 minutes if the girl doesn't struggle. If she does then we call lots of people to help the mother and relatives try to force her to be still. Mostly the girls are not accepting this so they start to move around."

Her determination to continue in her job is clear and with the law in Somaliland still allowing cutting, the main hope of campaigners against mutilation lies with the country's clerics.

They began reassessing five years ago what Islam says about FGM. Opinion now, while united in opposition to extensive cutting and sewing, is divided between those who advocate supposedly minor "touching" with a blade and a minority who support leaving girls entirely unharmed.

Sheikh Elmi Ismail Mohamed, who preaches in the Somaliland town of Borama, said he believed girls should have only a "small" cut to the clitoris, which he claimed would not amount to FGM, and added he was determined to prevent more severe mutilation.

"FGM was traditional and people used to practise a very bad kind, the pharaonic type, which involves lots of cutting and destroying," he said.

"Now Islamic scholars are talking about another kind, sunna circumcision, which we can't call FGM because it involves only a very small cut to the edge of the clitoris. It is very little, it is not mutilation, it is not destroying."

He added: "It is not painful, it is not harming and it is better religiously. That is what is written in our religious books. Any cutting or destroying is very bad  religiously, but this is not doing that. I preach in the mosque. People think it is shameful to talk about these things, but sometimes I talk about it and give them this message."

Sheikh Elmi added that some  parents, particularly in rural areas, believed that extensive "pharaonic" mutilation was necessary to "protect" their daughters "from being sexually active". He said he told them instead that such cutting was "wrong and harmful".

The small "sunna" cut to the clitoris advocated by Sheikh Elmi would still amount to a crime under British law, however, and is regarded as FGM  by campaigners in Somaliland and elsewhere.

But another cleric, Sheikh Farah Jama, said that while "sunna" cutting was "optional", he favoured leaving girls untouched.

He added:  "We are starting to reduce the number of FGM cases. We discovered that both in sharia law and culturally it is against what it means to leave a person as Allah created her."

"I tell parents that as Allah created the woman, every organ is important. If someone has lost an organ it is  important."

Sheikh Farah said he would not allow any mutilation of his daughter, aged three, and that he and other clerics took part in community meetings at which they used both religious and health arguments to persuade parents and cutters against FGM.

He added: "I'm not refusing sunna, it is optional, but I tell people not to go too far. For my girl I am not doing even sunna."

In the cutter's house, though, a mobile phone ring shows how much remains to be done. Ms Geedi laughs after answering, before revealing: "It was someone wanting to hire me." She adds that her next job is tomorrow. Meanwhile, her own daughter's genitals will meet the blade soon.

(2nd June 2014)
 

 


MEN MUST JOIN FIGHT AGAINST FGM TOO
(London Evening Standard, dated 2nd April 2014 author Anna Davis)
www.standard.co.uk    [Option 1]

One of the world's leading campaigners against female genital mutilation has called on men to take up the fight against the practice.
 
Maternal health pioneer Edna Adan, who was the first to speak out about ending FGM on Somali radio in the 1970s, said it should no longer be seen as a "woman's affair" and that men are integral to stamping it out.

Ms Adan, former foreign minister of Somaliland and founder of a pioneering maternity hospital, said: "The men are my target, because these girls have a mother and a father. Men have had the easy way out saying 'this is a woman's affair'. But it should not be a woman's affair. You can put your foot down if you are the head of the family."

Ms Adan, 76, trained as a midwife in London in the Fifties. She returned to Somalia in 1961, and was married to the country's prime minister.

She later set up a hospital in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, which trains women as midwives if they commit to learning about FGM.

On a visit to London this month she welcomed the growing campaign to stamp out FGM in the UK, and suggested that men who allow it to happen here could be threatened with deportation. She said: "For Somali men the sons are very precious, so give an announcement that the son may risk deportation because a little girl was touched.

"That will trickle down to the countries they come from?...?it's time for men to feel it. Girls have been hurt far too much. I want people in the diaspora to go home and talk about it.

"The world is changing and uniting against this practice."

The Edna Adan Maternity Hospital treats thousands of women who give birth despite being horrifically mutilated and scarred.

Ms Adan said she was inspired to speak out against FGM after seeing so many women suffer during childbirth. "It takes a lifetime to break that barrier and talk about it," she said. "But when it comes out you can't put it back."

She wrote the Somaliland midwifery curriculum, which is followed by every university in the country. It includes a module on FGM.

(2nd June 2014)

 


FGM LAW VITAL TO STOP ABUSE

(London Evening Standard, dated 24th March 2014 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

Major changes to the legislation on female genital mutilation are needed to stop perpetrators of "horrific" abuse escaping justice, one of the government's top law officers said today.
 
Solicitor General Oliver Heald said the existing law was "full of loopholes" and that ministers needed to act to make it "easier" for prosecutors to bring charges.

He added that reforms - including a legal duty on parents to prevent their children from mutilation and a requirement for health and education staff to report cases - could be carried out before the election. Changes could also include covering perpetrators who were temporarily living here instead of applying only to permanent residents as at present.

Mr Heald's comments come just days after the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, announced that a London doctor and another man are to be prosecuted for alleged FGM offences in the first such charges since the practice became illegal in 1985.

The two charged are Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena, 31, who is accused of carrying out the mutilation, and Hasan Mohammed, who allegedly aided and abetted the crime at London's Whittington Hospital in November 2012 on a woman who had recently given birth.

No action is being taken in four other cases referred to prosecutors by the Met because of legal obstacles, the same as with several other alleged FGM cases. Mr Heald said: "It is time we had more prosecutions. We need a pipeline of reporting and a way of prosecuting that is not full of loopholes. If the offence is technical and there are legal difficulties we should remove them."

The first of the three key reforms would put parents under an active duty to prevent FGM. This would stop them escaping prosecution in cases where they had allowed their children to be mutilated overseas.

"If you want to prosecute parents you have to show they aided and abetted the cutting. Many girls go on holiday where it happens with relatives or friends performing the rites. In those circumstances it's hard to prove parents did anything active to enable it to happen. If the law changed to "permitting" it to happen, parents would have a duty to try to actively interfere to stop it," he said.

Mr Heald explained that because the law requires offenders to be permanent residents in this country, those only temporarily here can escape justice. "If you are living here then we should be able to prosecute," he claimed.

He added that health, education and other professionals should be required to report FGM. Possible sanctions could be applied if they failed. "You could look at criminal, civil or a regulatory sanction. But professionals who come across child abuse, which is what this is, should feel an active duty to report it."

Mr Heald warned that those from countries in which FGM was prevalent needed to abide by British standards. "We have to make people realise that this is contrary to our values and it is a criminal offence to abuse a child. Given that we think we women should be treated with respect, equally, and that we live in a modern Western world, we can't go on with this practice," he said.

(29th March 2014)


LONDON DOCTOR CHARGED IN FIRST FGM CASE
(London Evening Standard, dated 21st March 2014 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

The first British charges for female genital mutilation were announced today in a landmark decision by the country's top prosecutor.
 
Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said two people, one a doctor, would appear in court charged with carrying out the crime at London's Whittington Hospital in November 2012.

The alleged crimes involve the practice of "re-infibulation" in which the vagina of a woman previously subjected to FGM is sewn up again after giving birth to leave only a tiny opening.

The two people charged are Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena, who is accused of carrying out the mutilation, and Hasan Mohammed, who is alleged to have aided and abetted in the crime.

Today's historic announcement is the first time that criminal action has been taken against an alleged perpetrator since FGM was made illegal in 1985. No action will be taken in four other cases, however, after the legal obstacles to prosecution proved too great.

Despite that, today's news will delight campaigners. It follows intensive efforts by the Met and a high profile publicity campaign, including in the Evening Standard, that have led to a surge of cases being referred to prosecutors.

Announcing today's decision, Ms Saunders said: "The CPS was asked to consider evidence in relation to this allegation of female genital mutilation by the Metropolitan Police Service after it was alleged that following a patient giving birth in November 2012, a doctor at the Whittington Hospital, in London, repaired FGM that had previously been performed on the patient, allegedly carrying out FGM himself.

"Having carefully considered all the available evidence, I have determined there is sufficient evidence and it would be in the public interest to prosecute Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena for an offence contrary to S1 (1) of the Female Genital Mutilation Act.

"I have also determined that Hasan Mohamed should face one charge of intentionally encouraging an offence of FGM, contrary to section 44(1) of the Serious Crime Act and a second charge of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring Dr Dharmasena to commit an offence contrary to S1 (1) of the Female Genital Mutilation Act .

"Dr Dharmasena and Hasan Mohamed will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 15 April.  May I remind all those concerned that these individuals have a right to a fair trial and it is very important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings."

In decisions on four other cases, Ms Saunders said that there was insufficient evidence to justify a prosecution. She added that the introduction of anonymity for victims should now be considered to make it easier to bring charges in future cases.

She said the reason was that many victims were reluctant to testify in court - where their identities are currently made public - about such a "sensitive" part of their body.

She added: "Anonymity for victims of FGM is something that should be considered. It is a very difficult injury to talk about. It is an abuse of their body and it is not a part of the body that people want to talk about in public."

Prosecutors also gave details of two of the four cases in which no charges have been brought. The first involved a man who rang an FGM helpline after misunderstanding its purpose and asked for his two daughters to be circumcised.

No charge was possible over his actions, in February 2012, because the FGM Act requires prosecutors to show that a suspect has committed an act that goes further than simply preparing to commit the offence.

The other case was referred to prosecutors by the Met in December and involved an allegation that two parents arranged for their daughter to undergo overseas a type of female genital mutilation involving a small pinprick.

The girl was examined and no physical evidence was found that the procedure had been performed, although this is not unusual for this type of mutilation. Another obstacle to charges was that neither the suspects nor the potential victim were British nationals or permanent residents at the time of the alleged offence. This meant that, under the existing terms of the FGM legislation, they could not be prosecuted for an act committed abroad.

Today's announcement comes ahead of an appearance next week by Ms Saunders in front of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, which has launched an inquiry into FGM.

Ms Saunders, who took over as DPP last November, has already told the committee in written evidence that sweeping legal changes are needed to boost the chances of bringing perpetrators of FGM to justice.

She said one potential reform would put parents under a legal duty to protect their children from mutilation - leaving them vulnerable to charges if they failed to do so.

Doctors, teachers and other health and education staff could also be given a "new statutory duty" to report cases where a girl was suspected of having undergone FGM or was likely to become a victim. She also called for existing legislation, which covers only those living permanently in the UK, to be extended  to temporary residents.

FGM involves the removal of all or parts of the labia and clitoris, as well as sewing up the vagina. It can cause severe pain and long term physical and pyschological damage.

It was made illegal in this country in 1985. Further legislation in 2003 extended the law to make it illegal for British residents to take girls overseas to be mutilated. But until today no charges had been brought for the crime.

Statistics on the number of existing and potential victims in this country are limited, although estimates suggest that 66,000 women are living with FGM with 20,000 girls at risk of the practice. The Evening Standard has obtained data from hospitals in London showing that at least 4,000 women have been treated for FGM. One hospital, St George's in Tooting, has treated 1,546 victims in its maternity unit since 2002.

Today's decisions follow the submission by Scotland Yard of files on 11 cases of alleged FGM to the Crown Prosecution Service. Three of the cases - one of which included the alleged mutilation of a girl aged less than two months - were described as new files. Another four were also recent cases, but were described as being at an "early stage" and involving only "preliminary discussions" with police

The other four cases had previously been considered by prosecutors without charges being brought, but were being reassessed to see if alternative ways could be found to bring the alleged perpetrators to court.

(29th March 2014)
 


DOUBLING OF FGM TIP-OFFS RAISES PROSECUTION HOPES
(London Evening Standard, dated 3rd March 2014 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk  [Option 1]

The number of tip-offs to police about female genital mutilation has more than doubled in the past year as increased publicity prompts more Londoners to raise concerns.
 
Sixty-nine reports involving either direct allegations about FGM or other information on the barbaric practice have been received by the Met since the start of April last year.

As there were 26 such referrals during the previous 12 months, that amounts to an increase of 165 per cent with one month remaining before the final annual total for 2013/14 is reached.

The Met believes the rise in the number of tip-offs is the result of heightened public awareness of the problem, partly caused by coverage in the Evening Standard and other media, combined with a growing recognition among Londoners that mutilation is child abuse. The referrals have yet to result in any prosecutions despite files on more than 10 cases being passed to prosecutors.

But Detective Chief Superintendent Keith Niven, the head of the Met's rape and child abuse command, said that he remained hopeful.

Anyone with information about suspected FGM should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or the NSPCC's FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550.

(29th March 2014)
 


NEW THREE-POINT PLAN TO TACKLE "BARBARIC" FGM
(London Evening Standard, dated 6th March 2014 author Anna Davis)
www.standard.co.uk  [Option 1]

A hard-hitting campaign targeting countries that allow female genital mutilation was launched today.
 
A ground-breaking three-point charter of measures to eradicate the horror of FGM was revealed by campaigners to combat the practice.

London MEP Marina Yannakoudakis is spearheading the campaign ahead of International Women's Day.

Her manifesto, based on principles of action the Evening Standard has recommended, demands that:

•Governments ramp up their efforts to prosecute people who are guilty of inflicting genital mutilation on girls.


•All cases of FGM are officially recorded both in the UK and abroad to reveal the true scale of the scandal.


•Strict obligations must be imposed on aid to non-European countries to ensure they protect girls from FGM.


The manifesto will form the centrepiece of a conference on FGM taking place at City Hall later this month.

Mrs Yannakoudakis, who organised the conference, said: "Let's gather proper data and make sure all cases get reported and recorded.

"Let's make sure those responsible for FGM are brought to justice both in the UK and abroad. And finally - let's not send unconditional aid to countries where this barbaric practice prevails."

She added: "This is an appalling crime against children - one that is veiled in superstition and secrecy and hidden from public view. It happens to young girls who in many ways are at the margins of society, often isolated by a closed culture and lack of integration.

"I believe misplaced sensitivities over religion, race and heritage are behind that fact that in Britain there has been not one prosecution. If this appalling abuse were happening on such a scale to young, white, middle-class girls I believe there would be no shortage of court cases or convictions."

The manifesto has been endorsed by the Evening Standard as well as leading campaigners including Waris Dirie, United Nations special ambassador for the elimination of FGM and Mikael Gustafsson, chairman of the European parliament's gender equality committee. Speakers at the event on March 18, which will be chaired by Evening Standard editor Sarah Sands, include Boris Johnson, health minister Jane Ellison, Efua Dorkenoo of Equality Now, FGM survivor Alimatu Dimonekene and cross party MEPs.

Mrs Yannakoudakis said: "For too long this has been a secret suffering. Broader society has been kept in the dark or has chosen to look the other way."

UN commends the Standard

The Evening Standard and two of its journalists have won "special recognition" in UN-backed awards for their campaigning coverage of the problem of female genital mutilation.

The jury for the Women on the Move media awards, which is run by the United Nations High Commissioner for the Refugees and migrant welfare groups, The Forum and the Migrants' Rights Network, said the paper's coverage has helped to "expose an issue to a new audience" and "catalyse change with the target audience, government or other influential bodies".

The jury also praised the "outstanding reporting" of Deputy Campaigns Editor Anna Davis and Home Affairs Editor Martin Bentham for publicising the plight of victims of FGM.

In a citation the award jury said it was giving a "special jury recognition to the Evening Standard newspaper for its campaigning reporting and coverage of female genital mutilation".

It added: "Anna Davis and Martin Bentham are commended for their outstanding reporting that has highlighted the plight of women who've been victims of FGM or are facing deportation."

The newspaper's achievement will be recognised tonight at the South Bank Centre. Other awards will be presented to celebrate women who have fled persecution and helped others.

(29th March 2014)


MINISTER : USE FGM CAMPAIGN TO STOP FORCED MARRIAGES TOO
(London Evening Standard, dated 4th March 2014 author Anna Davis
www.standard.co.uk  [Option 1]

The campaign to end female genital mutilation will be extended to stamp out forced marriages as well, International Development Secretary Justine Greening announced today.
 
She said the Evening Standard has played a crucial part in highlighting the horrors of FGM, and she now wants to use the momentum to stop girls being made to marry against their will.

One girl in nine in developing countries marries before the age of 15 and Ms Greening said British girls are also at risk of being sent abroad for early marriage.

She added: "For a lot of London parents and young girls growing up in London these could be the girls in their class. Similarly with FGM it's time we started talking about this nationally and internationally, to raise the profile and say it is not acceptable."

The minister  said she is determined to "scale up" the UK's work to stamp out early marriage, which leaves girls in some communities seen as "more assets than people".

Last year the UK forced marriage unit dealt with 1,302 cases, and a quarter of those were in London. Around 200 of those seeking help from the unit were girls aged 15 or under.

Speaking about the impact early forced marriage has on girls, Ms Greening said: "At the very time when they might be people who are full of hope and looking forward to what they can achieve, actually the exact reverse happens and their world completely shrinks."

Child brides are also more likely to die from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, become infected with HIV, suffer from domestic violence and live in poverty, according to campaign group Girls Not Brides.

Ms Greening admitted it can be difficult to hear details of forced marriage, citing the case of an eight-year-old girl in Yemen who died on her wedding night after suffering from internal bleeding. She had been forced to marry a man five times her age and the case caused uproar when it became public in September.

Today's announcement comes amid growing calls for FGM to be stamped out, and after the British Government pledged £35 million to help eliminate it in a generation. Ms Greening said: "I pay tribute to the Evening Standard for being a leading paper in our country that has brought this campaign to the majority of Londoners."

She will speak tonight at a Southbank event organised by Plan UK, Girls not Brides and the Gender and Development Network.

(29th March 2014) 


MIRIAM CLEGG : FGM IS ABHORRENT, IT BEGGARS BELIEF IT STILL HAPPENS
(London Evening Standard, dated 27th February 2014 author Anna Davis)
www.standard.co.uk  [Option 1]


The wife of the Deputy Prime Minister has spoken out against female genital  mutilation, saying it "beggars belief" that it is still happening.
 
Miriam González Durántez, who is married to Nick Clegg, praised the Evening Standard for shining a light on the practice, which she described as "abhorrent".

It comes after Education Secretary Michael Gove announced he will write to all schools in England to ask them to help protect girls.

Schools will receive guidance before Easter about FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of a girl's external genitalia. Around 66,000 women are believed to be victims of FGM in the UK, with 24,000 girls at risk.

Ms González Durántez, who is a partner at European law firm Dechert  LLP, said: "It is certainly an abhorrent practice and beggars belief it is still happening to women in some of our countries.

"It seems to me that the only way forward is to speak openly about it so that those who are close to it can have the confidence to expose the perpetrators. FGM is a crime."

She said it is "courageous" to speak out against FGM, adding: "I recognise some of these areas become taboos and whenever you expose it you take a certain risk. You make a massive difference talking about it."

Ms González Durántez, who has three young sons, is also backing the Inspiring the Future campaign, which aims to get successful women into state schools to speak to female pupils and act as role models.

Talking about the campaign previously, Ms González Durántez said: "Every woman can be a role model for the new generations, no matter the path they have chosen in their lives.

"Through taking women into state schools to talk face-to-face with girls around the country this campaign  will help to remove the stereotypes  and absurd labels that still today surround women."

(9th March 2014)
 

 


VICTIMS OF FGM COULD SUE GOVERNMENT FOR FAILING TO PROTECT THEM
(London Evening Standard, dated 26th February 2014 authors Nicholas Cecil & Anna Davis)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

Victims of female genital mutilation could sue the government for millions for failing to protect them from the barbaric practice, leading lawyers warned today.
 
They said victims could get compensation after British authorities failed to bring a single prosecution despite FGM being criminalised three decades ago.

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales believes the UK is in breach of its international law obligations to protect young women and girls from mutilation.

Kirsty Brimelow QC, the committee's chairwoman, said: "During the period of the UK's breach, thousands of  British girls and young women have been unnecessarily exposed to the  risk of mutilation and have suffered irreparable physical and emotional damage. Many could - and should - have been saved."

The legal experts submitted a detailed report on the British authorities' failures over FGM, including the lack of prosecution, guidance for health and social workers and education for pupils.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell QC said: "This authoritative report raises fundamental questions about the government discharging its international obligations.

"It may well be that victims would be entitled to sue the government."

Stephanie Harrison QC, from Garden Court Chambers, told The Standard: "There is obviously precedent for the State being sued where it has failed in its duty of care.

"An obvious example is where children have been in the care of local authorities and have not been protected from physical or sexual abuse."

The final bill could run into millions if cases are successful.

The Crown Prosecution Service is examining ten cases of alleged FGM with a view to bringing the first prosecution for the crime.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson urged the authorities to explore further bringing a case where the victim does not have to go to court and perpetrators can be brought to justice based on evidence from health and other professionals.

Campaigners against FGM today praised the Evening Standard for bringing the subject into the mainstream.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has agreed to write to all schools in England about FGM and 250,000 people have signed a petition calling on him to ensure schools teach about FGM before the summer holidays - known as the "cutting season", when girls are sent away to be mutilated.

FGM survivor Nimko Ali, whose story was first revealed in the Evening Standard last February, said: "The Standard campaign started the ball rolling."

(5th March 2014)

 

 


TEACHERS GIVEN LESSONS IN HOW TO TELL PUPILS ABOUT CUTTING DANGERS
(London Evening Standard, dated 19th February 2014 author Anna Davis)
www.standard.co.uk  [Option 1]

Teachers were today being trained how to speak to children about the "taboo" subject of female genital mutilation.
 
At a conference in Victoria, a lesson plan, which includes quizzes, videos and information cards, was launched to help teachers broach the subject in PSHE (personal, social, health and education) classes.

The charity Forward called the conference to try to help teachers to talk about FGM. It is estimated that 24,000 girls in Britain are at risk from the practice.

Forward urged that lessons be attended not only by pupils from all ethnicities but also by boys and a spokeswoman said teaching would raise awareness and debunk myths. She added: "Given the taboo nature of the practice, it is essential that girls are aware of support services that they can access."

Teachers received a lesson plan which is designed for use in secondary schools for pupils aged around 12. It encourages teachers to avoid judgmental words - instead of saying words such as "wrong", they should say "harmful" or "illegal".

The lessons are designed for pupils from all backgrounds and Forward said it was important that all pupils know about FGM because many schools are multi-cultural and children are more likely to turn to peers for support.

The staging of the conference comes after the Evening Standard revealed that only seven primary schools in Britain - six in Islington and one in Bristol - were making pupils aware of FGM. However, the charity said it was receiving growing number of requests from teachers wanting to learn how to talk to pupils about FGM.

Naana Otoo-Oyortey, its executive director, said: "Pupils should be empowered and engaged to know about issues that could be affecting them, their peers and communities. Pupils are better equipped to be able to support themselves, peers and siblings who may be at risk of or affected by FGM."

The conference was staged as the Bar Human Rights Committee - a group of human rights lawyers - told MPs that protection orders, used to protect victims of forced marriage, could be used to help girls at risk of FGM by allowing police and councils to confiscate the passports of potential victims.

(26th February 2014)

 

 


EDUCATION SECRETARY TO WRITE TO ENGLANDS SCHOOLS TO STAMP OUT FGM
(BBC News, dated 26th February 2014 author Angela Harrison)

Full article : www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-26352877

Education Secretary Michael Gove is to write to schools in England to ask them to help protect girls from female genital mutilation (FGM).

Schools will receive guidance before Easter, aimed at stopping "this very serious form of child abuse".

FGM, sometimes called female circumcision, involves the cutting or cutting away of external female genital organs.

It is common in some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities.

Official figures put the number of victims of FGM in the UK at about 66,000, but this is thought to be an underestimate.

Mr Gove made the announcement after meeting campaigners on Tuesday.

They included Bristol student Fahma Mohamed, who started a petition backed by the Guardian newspaper, asking for Mr Gove to send guidance to schools before the summer, when many girls are taken away to be cut.

The petition, signed by 234,000 people, states that 24,000 girls in the UK are currently at risk of FGM.

In a statement released last night, Mr Gove said: "I was very pleased to meet Fahma Mohamed today.

"She has been running an inspirational campaign. Fahma and her supporters have done fantastic work in raising awareness of female genital mutilation.

"It is a truly horrific crime. We must do everything we can to end it."

This will include signs to look out for that a child may have been a victim of FGM, as well as facts about the practice and a guidance that the legal safeguarding duties teachers and school staff have to children include protection from FGM.

Mr Gove added: "I thank Fahma - and other courageous public campaigners against female genital mutilation - for their efforts.

"We all want to see this very serious form of child abuse consigned to history."

FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985, but no-one in Britain has been prosecuted.

It is often carried out without anaesthetic and victims are usually aged between four and 10. Some are babies.

The children are cut for cultural, not medical, reasons and campaigners say it is a way of oppressing and controlling women and a practice that can leave life-long physical and mental scars.

Researchers believe most cases go unreported because the girls are young and do not want to speak out against their families.

Earlier this month, schools in Scotland were told all teachers should receive training about the issue and that parents should be educated too.

The Scottish Parliament was told 3,000 girls in Scotland were at risk.

###Countries where FGM is most common

Somalia - more than 97% of women aged 15-39 have been cut in this way
 
Guinea - 99% of women aged 35-39 and 89% of those aged 15-19

Egypt - 96% of women aged 35-39 and 81% of those aged 15-19

Sierra Leone - 96% of those aged 35-39 and 75% of those aged 15-19

Source: International Development Committee, June 2013

(26th February 2014)

 

 


GUIDE HELPS GPs IDENTIFY CUTTING VICTIMS
(London Evening Standard, dated 14th February 2014 author Sophie Goodchild)
www.standard.co.uk  [Option 1]

A new guide is being issued to GPs and nurses to help them do more to identify and refer victims of female genital mutilation.

It also warns of the harmful consequences of the illegal practice, the laws around it, and how to report incidents.
Denise Henry, who helped write the leaflet, has seen more than 100 victims of FGM through her work as a specialist midwife dealing with birth trauma. Ms Henry, who works at St George's Hospital in Tooting, said some victims were not being referred to receive the specialist NHS support they need.

"A lot of GPs are male and it's difficult for men to ask women about this issue. And women who've experienced FGM may deny it if a man asks them," she said.

The Government is making it mandatory for NHS acute hospitals to provide information on patients who have undergone FGM. But Ms Henry said some hospitals in London still do not have services or policies for these women. St George's antenatal clinic refers victims of FGM who are pregnant so they receive specialist support and advice.

(26th February 2014)

 


GIRLS HAVE BEEN SAVED FROM FGM BY POLICE ACTIVITY, SAYS DETECTIVE
(London Evening Standard, dated 14th February 2014 authors Justin Davenport and Pippa Crerar)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

Police action has saved a number of women and girls in London from the crime of female genital mutilation, a senior detective said today.
 
The Met says that out of 69 cases of suspected FGM which were referred to the force last year, they took action in 57 cases. In a number of these cases police believe that their intervention prevented girls from being cut.

Detective Superintendent Jason Ashwood, the head of the Met's FGM team, said his officers were using covert tactics because it was "very hard to investigate FGM when the victim is a very young child and the suspect is a family member".

Mr Ashwood added that many of the referrals received by police were not specific allegations of a crime but where someone feared a child could be at risk. "We carry out a lot of police activity which may not result in an arrest or a prosecution but we are convinced that on a variety of occasions we have prevented a risk to a young child," he said.

However, the Deputy Children's Commissioner for England has raised concerns that many Londoners trying to report suspicions about FGM have been let down by the Met.

Sue Berelowitz told a London Assembly hearing that a senior member of staff at the Office of the Children's Commissioner had struggled for hours to get through to a Met official who could help with a "heart-rending" case.

"We're pretty well informed in our office and pretty well connected and I cannot tell you how difficult it was for us to simply track down who to speak to," she said. Once the right person had been found they were "very good".

Ms Berelowitz said the Met had "a way to go" to catch up with other forces - such as Lancashire and Greater Manchester - on information-sharing but that senior officers recognised this.

Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said parents suspected of taking their daughters abroad to undergo FGM are being stopped by police at airports and handed leaflets warning them that the practice is a serious criminal offence.

Sir Bernard said: "It is very hard for them to come back and say they weren't aware… If on their return they show any sign, if we have any intelligence or evidence that FGM has been carried out, then we have got an operation which seeks to intervene there."

He also said that referrals about FGM from health and education authorities were extremely low. "It is clear there must be girls and women who have had this operation carried out who later get medical treatment and it is not being reported to us. That's very hard to understand," he said.

The Met has made 12 arrests over FGM allegations and five people remain on bail. Police have submitted seven cases files to the CPS and are working with them on three further investigations.

(26th February 2014)

 

 


PARENTS WHO ALLOW GIRLS TO BE CUT MUST FACE FULL FORCE OF LAW
(London Evening Standard, dated 12th February 2014 author Anna Davis)
www.standard.co.uk   [Option 1]

Parents who allow their daughters to be mutilated must be prosecuted with no fear of upsetting their communities, a hearing has been told.
 
Survivors of female genital mutilation, MEPs, campaigners and medical experts gathered at the European Parliament for the first high-profile hearing into FGM.

They demanded that the full force of the law be brought down on parents or "cutters" found to have mutilated children.

Efua Dorkenoo, of Equality Now, said people are no longer content to campaign quietly against FGM because despite decades of work, girls in the UK are still being cut.

She said: "No longer can we say we don't want to upset anyone." Calling for the first prosecution to brought in Britain, she said: "We don't think civil society groups having conversations here and there is enough to stop FGM."

The hearing was called by London MEP Marina Yannakoudakis at the European Parliament in Brussels. It was the first gathering to draw together such a range of experts from across the world.

At the meetings, campaigners called for FGM to be recognised as child abuse. They said education and other preventive measures should be used, but that prosecution was also needed.

Ms Dorkenoo said: "Of course prevention must be central - but prosecution is the flipside of that same coin. Because in many cases if a parent or guardian feels they can get away with it, they will."

FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985 but so far no one has been prosecuted for it. The situation is similar in every other European country apart from France.

Ms Dorkenoo said that until now women have been afraid to speak out because of "fear, intimidation, stigma, ostracisation", adding: "As long as parents and guardians feel there is no pressure to let go [of FGM] they will not give up.

"It's not to do totally with lack of education or ignorance. It is a gender control power issue."

The meeting heard that women in Britain who are under pressure from their relatives to cut their daughters are at the forefront of the fight for a prosecution.

Ms Dorkenoo said: "Women in communities are requesting for the Government to implement the law. They feel prosecution will empower them to resist some of the pressures."

If these women could tell their families they would end up in prison if their daughters were cut, they would be able to refuse more easily, she said.

Dr Marlene Temmerman, director of reproductive health and research at the World Health Organisation, called for the number of women who have undergone FGM to be counted properly. It is believed that 500,000 women in Europe have had FGM but the figure is an estimate.

(26th February 2014) 


POLICE TARGET "CUTTERS" IN CAMPAIGN AGAINST UK FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
(The Guardian, dated 6th February 2014 author Sandra Laville)

Full article : www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/06/police-target-cutters-female-genital-mutilation-fgm

A senior police officer has appealed for information about the "cutters" who carry out female genital mutilation on young girls, as pressure grows over the failure to bring a single prosecution in the UK for the abuse, which is thought to affect tens of thousands of girls.

Detective Chief Superintendent Keith Niven, who leads the sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command of the Metropolitan police, said he would use every tactic available to him, including covert methods, to investigate and prosecute individuals who mutilate babies and young girls.

"We need to break down the taboos and enable young girls to feel able to talk about it at school to their teachers," said Niven. "This is child abuse - it can cause lifelong psychological and physiological damage. There needs to be a consistent approach across schools, within the high-risk areas as a starting point, and that is not happening."

Niven called for fresh intelligence on people operating as cutters as he revealed that the lack of victims coming forward to police with information about the abuse they had suffered was a major obstacle to bringing a prosecution. Many young women, he said, were extremely reluctant to provide information that could lead to the prosecution of their parents or other relatives.

FGM has been illegal in England and Wales since 1985, with the law amended in 2003 to criminalise the taking of young girls abroad for the practice. More than 66,000 women in England and Wales have undergone FGM and more than 24,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk, according to a recent report.

But since 2009 the Metropolitan police has had only 195 referrals about FGM, most of which involved tiny snippets of information or suspicion, rather than direct contact from victims, and there have been no prosecutions in connection with FGM. "I want people who have information about the cutters to come forward," he said. "I can use tried and tested methods and tactics and resources to take a close look at them and gather evidence against individuals so I don't need to rely upon victims coming forward.

In an attempt to address the reluctance of victims to contact the police, Niven has brought in the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) to act as a neutral intermediary for victims to contact via a 24-hour helpline (0800 028 3550).

But an NSPCC report revealed shocking levels of ignorance among teachers in England and Wales, with 83% saying they had not had child protection training in this area. The poll of 1,000 teachers also suggested that 68% were unaware of government guidance about safeguarding policies regarding FGM, with one in six teachers saying they did not know that it was illegal in the UK. The same proportion did not see it as child abuse.

Instances of FGM in the UK tend to occur in areas with large populations of FGM-practising communities, including from parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East; these areas include London, Cardiff, Manchester, Sheffield, Northampton, Birmingham, Oxford, Crawley, Reading, Slough and Milton Keynes.

(26th February 2014)

 

 


HOPES OF FGM PROSECUTIONS AS POLICE PROBE 60 HOTLINE CASES
(London Evening Standard, dated 6th February 2014 author Anna Davis)
www.standard.co.uk  [Option 1]


More than 60 suspected cases of female genital mutilation have been passed to the police since the summer, the Evening Standard can reveal.
 
Teachers, midwives and fathers who fear their daughters are about to be cut have been calling the NSPCC's FGM hotline, which was launched last June.

It has taken 153 calls from across the country, of which 61 have been referred to police and social services, marking a rapid escalation in the number of cases reported.

However, experts said many more cases of FGM were going undetected. Today, the Government launched an action group staffed by Britain's top anti-FGM campaigners who will work with campaigners in Africa to end FGM in the UK and abroad.

Charities will be invited to bid for part of a new £100,000 fund to be used to raise awareness of FGM.

Crime prevention minister Norman Baker said: "There is no justification whatsoever for female genital mutilation - it is child abuse and it is illegal.

"I am determined we do all we can to bring perpetrators to justice. The law applies to absolutely everyone and political or cultural sensitivities must not get in the way of preventing, uncovering and prosecuting those who instigate and carry out FGM."

International development minister Lynne Featherstone said Britain could learn from the West African country of Burkina Faso, which is prosecuting offenders. She said: "The message is crucial - you have to be willing to prosecute parents as well as cutters."

Visiting the FGM helpline's base to mark today's Zero Tolerance for FGM day, Ms Featherstone insisted that it was possible to end FGM within a generation. She said: "If the girls of today don't do it to their daughters, it ends."

She praised the Evening Standard for highlighting the horrors of the practice, which can involve cutting off a girl's clitoris and sewing shut her vagina. Kam Thandi, who works on the hotline, said many calls were from teachers fearful about girls in their classes who are not normally absent from school. One was alerted because a girl mentioned going back to her mother country for a "celebration" - FGM is sometimes marked with a "coming of age" party.

Even if a teacher fears the child has already gone abroad, social services can still be contacted.

Other calls have been from divorced fathers who fear ex-partners are going to carry out FGM on their children.

John Cameron, head of the NSPCC helpline, said it was "really fantastic" that teachers and health professionals were calling the helpline because "they are beginning to recognise the signs and starting to talk about it".

A senior police officer today warned that the prospect of FGM prosecutions was being hampered because of the failure of doctors, teachers and social workers to report the crime.

Detective Superintendent Jason Ashwood, head of Scotland Yard's FGM team, said: "I can hardly think of an example of a doctor calling up to say, 'I have someone [with FGM] with me in A&E, please can you send an officer.' That just does not happen."

(26th February 2014)

 

 


EUROPE WIDE MOVE TO END FGM "BARBARISM"
(London Evening Standard, dated 3rd February 2014 author Anna Davis)
www.standard.co.uk  [Option 1]

The European parliament is set to debate sweeping plans to eradicate female genital mutilation across the continent.
 
Politicians will discuss proposals  to eliminate the practice, which affects around 500,000 women and girls in Europe, as part of zero tolerance day on Thursday, a UN-sponsored awareness day.

Members of the gender equality committee want Europe to toughen its stance.  This week they will call for all member states to prosecute those who carry out FGM and for the number of victims to be recorded properly.

They want it to be formally recognised that FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of female genitalia, is a "gross form of violence against women and violence against the child".

London MEP Marina Yannakoudakis, a member of the committee, will back the plans and praise the Evening Standard for its role in highlighting the horrors of FGM. She said: "We need to take firm action... to make sure we punish those responsible for the mutilation of our little girls and put a stop to this cruel and barbaric crime for good.

"This vote won't stop this horrific practice overnight, but it starts to build up pressure on the European authorities as well as on national governments to address the problem with the seriousness it so gravely deserves."

(26th February 2014)


FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION : TIME TO TAKE A STAND
(Stylist magazine, dated 29th January 2014)

Full article : www.stylist.co.uk/life/female-genital-mutilation-time-to-take-a-stand

On 6 February, it's the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation - it's time we all make a stand

Take one minute and try to imagine having an eyelid cut off for no obvious reason and with no anaesthetic. Try to feel the searing pain, the blood trickling down your face. The shock and panic of staring at a piece of your flesh that's been hacked from your body; the loss and confusion. You would be permanently scarred. And everyone would be outraged.

Now imagine being 10 years old and being told by your mother that you're going to a celebration with other girls your age. But when you get there, you're pinned down by women you don't know and your outer labia, inner labia and clitoris are cut off with a razor blade. Picture your blood pooling on the floor, while, with no pain relief, the women thread a needle and sew up your bleeding wound leaving just a small hole - maybe just three millimetres in size. All through this terrifying mutilating act, your mother, the woman you love most in the world, is sat waiting next door, delighted that you are 'being made clean'. There is not a woman in the world who can read that without curling up her body in horror, but because it's our genitals, not our eyelids, the taboo and silence attached to this subject has meant it's not yet been stopped. And this horrific act continues to happen to girls we live alongside.

FGM, historically sometimes called female circumcision, is mostly practised in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. It is estimated that 140 million women and girls worldwide have undergone the procedure and an estimated 23,000 girls living in the UK right now are at risk. This is despite the fact that FGM was criminalised in the UK nearly 30 years ago in 1985, and since 2003 it's been illegal for British parents to take their children abroad to be cut (the maximum term is 14 years in prison).

The mutilation ranges from the partial cutting or pricking of the clitoris to the complete removal of the external sex organs. There are various deep held beliefs behind the act ranging from making a girl marriageable (intercourse without opening the scar is almost impossible so the chances of pre-marriage sex is highly unlikely) to controlling women's sexual pleasure and urges by removing the clitoris. And while it's often defended as being a religious practice, it is not sanctioned by any religious text.

Nimco Ali, 30, co-founder of Daughters of Eve, a non-profit organisation that aims to empower and protect people from FGM-affected communities, believes the procedure has its roots in something altogether more insidious. "They say it makes you a woman; it's a rite of passage. But as you start to grow up and learn about feminism, you start to realise this is about control and fear. I look at my three-year-old niece and she's free and fearless. That is what FGM is there to stop. Break the girl and then mould her into an image of what men want."

Apart from the psychological trauma of having your flesh cut off, the physical ramifications of having your vagina sewn up include (not surprisingly) urinary tract infections, infertility and complications in childbirth, severe pain during urination, menstruation and sexual intercourse and of course, as with all rudimentary surgery, a chance of death.

Trying to get women who have undergone FGM to talk about it is understandably difficult. Reliving a traumatic act isn't easy. Mary Laiza, now 40, remembers the day she was cut in Tanzania aged 18.

"On the evening before my cutting, I made a promise to my parents that I would not let them down and I would not cry. My mother had said FGM would bring glory to our family so I yearned for the day I would be cut. On the day itself, a Maasai old woman came to my parents' house. The procedure does not involve any pain relief. When she started cutting the clitoris, I was not surprised since I knew that area was to be cut. But she kept on cutting the other parts; I felt I was almost dying. But my parents were shouting in jubilation."

"I stopped talking about it when I was about 11," recalls fellow FGM survivor Nimco. "I was seven when I was cut. I was taken to Somalia from my home in Cardiff for a holiday which is when it happened. Cardiff has one of the largest Somali populations in the UK. There wasn't a girl I knew who hadn't been cut.

"I used to talk about it all the time to girls at the mosque and junior school, but then I went to a different school to everyone else and I thought, 'I can't have that conversation. I can't explain to people.' So I just began to talk about FGM in the third person, like it hadn't happened to me. "For a long time I thought something different had happened to me [than to my friends] because everyone else was like, 'What's your problem? It's fine.' Now I understand that for me FGM was the only thing that happened in my life that didn't make sense. Other people were told to wear a headscarf and told not to go out. But we were given free rein to be educated. My mum said that her daughters were never going to get married for money and they would have their own independence. And yet she had me cut.

"I can remember bits of the procedure," recalls Nimco. "I remember the circumcisor having a go at me; I remember the smell of coffee being brewed - and the smell of Dettol can still stop me in my tracks. I remember being told to stop crying and that it was OK. But it wasn't OK. I was just so angry for a long time. "I told my teacher when I got back, and she said, 'Well, that's what happens to girls like you. It's like a Bat Mitzvah.' But it's nothing like a Bat Mitzvah. And that's when I started to think, do people actually know what they're talking about?"

The cultural sensitivity attached to the issue, along with the complicit silence around it, has meant that in the UK, there has never been a prosecution (although in November the Met arrested two people accused of performing FGM on a six-week-old baby). David Cameron suggested just two weeks ago that this absence of prosecution was due to the lack of people from FGM-affected communities coming forward with evidence. Nimco suggests a more hands-on approach could stop FGM within a decade.

"We need to break the cycle of FGM in a generation," says Nimco, explaining that affected communities have to break the culture of silence and young parents have to be educated as to why FGM is unnecessary and harmful. "We need to tackle women our age to make sure they don't put their daughters through it. A significant decrease in the procedure in the next 10 years will be a mark of our success. "But it's not just about breaking the cycle of the cut. It's about breaking the cycle of control. You are told that as a woman you are unacceptable. So you are cut to be made clean and now we have to remould you. And if that happens just because you are born, what else will happen to you if you step outside what they tell you to be?"

As for Nimco, her own courageous attempts to drag the issue into the limelight and confront her own trauma of FGM hasn't been without sacrifices. "If the person doesn't want to say something about it, then as hurtful as it is, you've got to walk away. And that's the stage it's at with my mother now," explains Nimco. "If she says sorry, she has to admit it was wrong and then unpick her own experience. It's going to be difficult so therefore she doesn't want to talk about it. And that's something I've come to understand. She still thinks she's done the right thing. It's a hard relationship, and it's going to take time to heal."

"They had to rip me open so I could deliver my first child"


Susan, 35, chairlady of the Kongelai Women's Network in Kenya explains the long-lasting effects of FGM

"I was circumcised when I was 13. The effects of FGM are terrible. It caused me a lot of bleeding and pain during the procedure. Because of the wound even urinating was painful - it would burn. According to the old women who do it, there should be no blood clots left on the wound so they take off all of the clotted blood with herbs. It is a very, very painful experience. The operation involves cutting off all of the labia and clitoris and sewing the sides that are left together leaving a small hole for sex, urination and childbirth. To do this they tie your legs together after they have cut so the sides fuse together. They leave a stick in the middle so that a hole is left during the healing process. After being circumcised girls are put into isolation for three weeks where they are mentored by older women. While you are there healing, your father is spreading the word that you are now ready for marriage. You won't know the man and they are often much older than you because they have more money to pay the dowry. Because they are often older their energy when it comes to sex isn't the same. So on the first night of your married life they won't have the force to penetrate you. So girls will get a cow's horn to drill the hole bigger. It will bleed again but then the man can penetrate more easily. This is what happened to me. It was very traumatic and painful. If the hole is too big for the man he will request that the girl is sewn up smaller. I had terrible problems giving birth to my first child because of the circumcision. The hole was too small so they had to rip me open so I could deliver and then sew it up again. I refuse to have my daughters circumcised. I don't want them to go through the same pain that I went through. I want them to be married to education when they're young. ActionAid training has given us awareness about the benefits of female education and the strength and understanding to finally stand up to the men in the communities."


SUPPORT THE FIGHT AGAINST FGM


There are several ways you can help put a stop to FGM, both here and abroad

Donate £10

Daughters of Eve (dofeve.org) has joined forces with Integrate Bristol, a charity that is doing pioneering work into intergenerational communication to break the FGM cycle. £10 will help fund mentors. integratebristol.org.uk

Donate £25

Donations are vital to funding ActionAid's work in rural communities in Africa; £25 could pay to support a school girls' club for one month where girls can learn about FGM, their right to refuse and where to go for help actionaid.org.uk

Sign a petition

Although the Stop FGM in the UK Now e-petition now has 100,000 signatures, forcing a debate in parliament about a strategy to eliminate FGM in the UK, more signatures will strengthen the case; epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/52740

Write a letter

Equality Now (equalitynow.org) has letter templates so you can express your outrage to governmental figureheads around the world. Anti-FGM organisation, 28toomany (28toomany.org) suggests writing to local MPs to demand the Department of Health invests money into the statutory reporting of the issue and the Department of Education includes FGM as part of sex education in schools.

If you're worried about a girl you know…

The NSPCC has a dedicated free 24-hour helpline if you think a child you know might be at risk; phone 0800 028 3550 or email fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk.

The Metropolitan Police's dedicated service for girls at risk of FGM is the Child Abuse Investigation Command - Project Azure - call 020 7161 2888

(3rd February 2014)
 


TEACHERS ARE FAILING TO RAISE ISSUE OF FGM WITH PRIMARY PUPILS
(London Evening Standard, dated 31st January 2014 author Anna Davis)
www.standard.co.uk  [Option 1]

Only seven primary schools in the country are making pupils aware of female genital mutilation, the Evening Standard can reveal today.
 
Teachers fear they will "open a can of worms" if they broach the subject, according to the charity Forward.

Only six primary schools in Islington and one in Bristol are bucking the trend, the charity said, despite girls of primary school age being the most at risk of becoming victims.

Teachers are so reluctant to discuss FGM with pupils that the charity is organising a conference to train them on how to raise the subject.

It comes as police face calls for a national inquiry into their handling of so-called honour crimes, including FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of female genitalia,

The Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor, said police acknowledge under-reporting of "honour-based violence" and "there is still much to be achieved if victims are to feel empowered to come forward and seek help."

Some London secondary schools teach pupils about FGM during PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) lessons. But campaigners fear it is already too late by that point.

Saria Khalifa, of Forward, said: "To safeguard girls we should be doing work at a significantly younger age. The average age of FGM is five to eight years old, and there is anecdotal evidence that it is happening at a younger age." St Werburgh's school in Bristol is the only primary school in the UK directly addressing FGM.

In Islington, a member of the council's health and well-being team has visited six primary schools and discussed FGM, along with other health issues. Islington council has also developed lesson plans for teachers of year seven pupils, the first year of secondary school.

Naana Otoo-Oyortey, executive director of Forward, said researchers from the charity tried to go into schools across the country to survey attitudes towards FGM among pupils aged 16 and over, but many schools refused to let them in.

Ms Otoo-Oyortey said: "A lot of schools felt it would open up a can of worms. It was a disappointment. There is a lot of resistance in schools."

To address the problem the charity is holding a conference in Westminster on February 19 for teachers, and is producing a lesson plan for schools.

Nimco Ali, a 30-year-old FGM survivor from Putney, called for teachers to be trained to spot the signs of FGM. When, aged seven, she told a teacher that she had visited the family "cutter"during the summer holidays, she replied: "Oh that's lovely?...?Like a bar mitzvah."

Ms Ali said: "School is your second home. It is your safe haven. That teacher was the only person I trusted, there was nobody else I could speak to but her response confused me?…? All I wanted was someone to ask, are you OK?"

(3rd February 2014)

 


RELIGIOUS LEADERS MUST FULLY BACK FIGHT AGAINST FGM, SAYS SUMMIT
(London Evening Standard, dated 14th January 2014 author Martin Bentham)
www.standard.co.uk    [Option 1]

Britain's first "faith summit" on female genital mutilation was taking place today in a new attempt to secure religious leaders' help in the fight against the barbaric practice.
 
Muslim, Christian and other religious leaders were all called to the Whitehall meeting. Officials said the main aim was to encourage them to exert their influence to change the views of followers who believe that mutilation is necessary - and to stop those who carry out cutting.

Government ministers were also hoping that the meeting would help to identify any obstacles hindering efforts to protect girls and allow them to pass on information about the measures that charities, police and others are taking to prevent the crime.

There is concern that a widespread belief in some African countries that FGM is a religious duty is putting girls in the UK at risk. International development minister Lynne Featherstone, who was jointly hosting today's meeting with Home Office minister Norman Baker, said it was essential that religious leaders gave full backing to the fight against FGM. 

"Religious leaders have the access, the power and the influence to change things," she said.

"If we don't have their buy-in, their help and them championing this then we are not going to stop FGM. Changing religious beliefs is key to ending FGM."

Among those attending the meeting were representatives from the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Women's Network, and Ajmal Masroor, an imam from Haringey.

The Church of England, Catholic, Jewish and Sikh representatives were also taking part, as well as charities such as Christian Aid and the anti-FGM organisation Equality Now.

Surveys have shown that more than half of girls in African countries such as Mali, Eritrea and Mauritania believe that mutilation is required as part of their religion. The practice, which can involve the removal of parts or all of the labia and clitoris, is also regarded as culturally necessary as a sign of purity in many African countries and among their diaspora communities in Britain.

The practice was made illegal in this country in 1985, but is thought by campaigners to remain prevalent because of the secrecy within affected communities and a lack of awareness among girls that mutilation should not be taking place.

Government ministers hope that faith leaders who have contact with vulnerable girls, as well as influence over their families, will respond to today's meeting by helping to change such attitudes and by bolstering the confidence of those who want to speak out against the practice.

(19th January 2014)

 


FGM : A MUSLIM ISSUE ?

(Huffington Post, dated 23rd December 2013 author Leyla Hussein)

Full article : www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/leyla-hussein/fgm-female-genital-mutilation_b_4490603.html

Comment on this article appeared in the London Evening Standard, dated 2nd January 2014

The making of The Cruel Cut documentary was one of the most challenging tasks I've ever undertaken in my anti-FGM campaigning. My aim has always been to teach the British public the effects of FGM, and how we should all make sure we protect our girls from this vile practice.

I feel we achieved that and much more. But the response from the less well-intentioned viewers was to say, 'this is a Muslim issue.' It made me think. Had my message implied that FGM was purely an Islamic affair? I re-watched my own documentary to see if I had made such a statement. But no, I'd clearly stated "none of the holy books mention FGM." So, I can't help but wonder where this belief stems from.

The survivors who helped me make The Cruel Cut were both Christian and Muslim. Maybe it's the fact that I'd identified myself as a Muslim, or that we live in a world where blaming Islam for the world's ills is becoming increasingly acceptable. So ladies and gents, allow me to put this issue to rest once and for all. Let's begin with a few facts and some interesting figures (brace yourselves, here comes another list):
•80% of Muslims around the world do not practice FGM.
•Islam advocates women's rights to sexual pleasure.
•The prophet Mohamed did not have his daughters undergo FGM.
•FGM is practiced within all religions. To be more specific, it's practiced by Christians, Muslims, Jews, animists and non-believers.
•FGM precedes all major religions as it was a practice that first started in Pharaonic Egypt.
•FGM depends on the traditions practiced by communities, rather than on the religion of a community group - for example, in the Niger 55% of Christians are affected by FGM, compared to 2% of Muslims.

Despite all of the above, there are certain patriarchal religious figures who advocate FGM for the purpose of controlling women. "What do you say, Leyla? Men using a distorted interpretation of religion to control female sexuality? I know, unheard of, right?" These figures come from all religious backgrounds. Unfortunately, their voices are often loud and sometimes drown voices of reason. This is not news. It is the angry dogs that bark the most.

So why don't the good religious scholars of this world do more to end FGM when they have the backing of scripture? Some of them do. The Tackling FGM Initiative works with religious leaders around the UK - both Muslim and Christian - to help spread abandonment messages.

In 2011, Manor Gardens, one of the Initiative projects, organised the Faith Against FGM conference. There, prominent Islamic figures publicly condemned FGM alongside their Christian peers. Sheikh Mohamoud Dalmar, from Somalia, described FGM as, 'the most heinous act of human cruelty ever perpetrated in human existence' that 'must have been started by a jealous despot'. The Africa Advocacy Foundation in London, also part of the Initiative, works with Muslim and Christian scholars who spread abandonment messages amongst all affected communities.

This is great, but it is not enough. All religions still shy from the subject of female sexuality. I still hear religious scholars say, 'this is a women's issue' just like some viewers said, 'this is a Muslim issue.' It's neither. It's a human rights issue, a violence against women issue and a child protection issue. It's everyone's issue.

How long did it take for the safe sex campaign to engage religious leaders in the fight to control the spread of HIV in South Africa? What more will it take for religious leaders around the world to see FGM as an equally devastating epidemic?

In some countries affected by FGM, such as Iraqi Kurdistan, Islamic scholars have placed a fatwa on FGM. This is encouraging. There needs to be more examples like this, to help take responsibility for ending this practice. Although FGM is not exclusively a Muslim issue, I am hoping Islamic leaders in the UK will think about doing the same. It's time for them to set an example for other religions.

(19th January 2014)