FGM Zero Tolerance Day – UK must get serious
6 February 2012
Ahead of the International Day of Zero Tolerance to female genital mutilation (FGM) on Monday, The Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development (FORWARD) and the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKRWO) are calling for a long-term, comprehensive strategy to tackle FGM in the UK.
FGM is a form of violence against women and girls and a human rights violation. The practice is illegal in the UK and is classified as a form of child abuse, yet in 2007 it was estimated that more than 32,000 girls were at high risk of being subjected to it. Over 66,000 women and girls living in the UK have already undergone FGM.
While FGM has largely been perceived as an African problem, research has revealed that it is also widespread in some Asian and Middle Eastern countries. In January the first conference on FGM in the Middle East found that FGM is practiced in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
“Until now, action on FGM in the UK has been piecemeal and only focused on African communities,” said Naana Otoo-Oyortey, Executive Director of FORWARD. “The UK needs a more holistic approach, with demonstrable commitment on educating social workers, school teachers, doctors and other professionals and engaging affected communities so that we can work together to end FGM. We welcome the recent establishment of an All Party Parliamentary Group on FGM.”
“FGM is a serious crime under UK law, but we know that the practice is continuing within Middle Eastern and African communities,” added Diana Nammi, Director of IKWRO. “Greater effort is needed to raise awareness within affected communities of the impact that FGM has on physical and mental health, and to convince parents that FGM is a violation of girls’ rights which will not be tolerated and should be stopped.”
To mark the International day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, FORWARD is launching an online survey on the knowledge, attitudes and experiences of young people living in the UK. IKWRO is also gathering data on to gain better insight and understanding of FGM, by including a question on FGM in our risk assessments with new clients.
A video has been released today by the END FGM European Campaign, which works with FORWARD and 13 other partner organisations across Europe. The video calls on European leaders to take action to END FGM. Watch it here.
Check out IKWRO’s blog at the Independent for International Day of Zero Tolerance.
Female genital mutilation involves any cutting of the female genital organs which is done for non-medical reasons. It can involve the removal of all or part of the clitoris or labia, and in some cases the labia are stitched together, leaving just a small hole for urine and menstrual blood to pass through. FGM affects 8000 girls each day across the world.
FGM is a criminal offence under the FGM Act 2003, punishable by up to 14 years in prison, but no one has ever been prosecuted for it. In February 2011 the government released guidelines on FGM, targeted at professionals such as health workers, teachers, Police Officers and social services staff. FORWARD and IKWRO have expressed concerns that these guidelines have not reached the professionals who need them because they are not being actively promoted in local areas.
FORWARD is an African Diaspora women’s campaign and support charity. Our work responds to the need to safeguard dignity and advance the sexual and reproductive health and human rights of African women and girls with a special focus on responding to female genital mutilation, child marriage and obstetric fistula. Our vision is that women and girls live in dignity, are healthy and have choices and equal opportunities to fulfil their potential.
The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation is a registered charity which provides advice and support to women and girls from the UK’s Middle Eastern communities who are facing domestic violence, ‘honour’ based violence, forced marriage or female genital mutilation. Recent studies have found that as high as 72% of women in Iraqi Kurdistan have undergone FGM.
The END FGM European Campaign, led by Amnesty International, launched a strategy in 2010 to end FGM with specific demands for EU institutions and member states. The summary of the strategy is available in English and French – _______________________________________________________________________________________