Watch my interview with FGM campaigner Hibo Wardere here.
Female genital mutilation is a crime. It is a form of violence against women and girls that violates their basic human rights. It has very serious, immediate and long-term consequences, both physically and emotionally. There are no medical or health reasons for anyone to be subjected to FGM. What’s worse is the fact that 50 per cent of all cases of FGM recorded in England are in London, whilst 65,000 girls under the age of 13 are at risk of the procedure in the UK. Not only that, but it is estimated that 170,000 women and girls are living with female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK today.
Though we are now talking more openly about FGM and how we can work together to end it, it is evident that more needs to be done. A great deal of work is taking place to ensure FGM does not slip off the agenda. London’s frontline professionals, including health, social care, education and the police are working with communities to raise awareness, help change beliefs and attitudes and prevent FGM in the capital. FGM is now an important part of safeguarding policies and practices, and there is much that these partners can learn from each other. 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 we know that London has the highest prevalence of FGM in the UK. We need to be bold, strong and ambitious and come together to collectively speak out against FGM. I am more determined than ever that London becomes a ‘zerocutting city’. I am thankful that the Mayor has said that tackling FGM is an important part of his mayoralty and a practice that he will not tolerate. The London Assembly now calls on the Mayor to take the next steps to eradicate this practice from our city.
FGM is a particular cultural practice, albeit one that has no place in today’s world. Moving forward we need to remain focussed on protecting women and girls in London. The Mayor must ensure FGM is tackled alongside wider violence against women and girls issues and he must prioritise the provision of high quality services to all those affected.
A report published last week by the London Assembly – ‘Tackling Female Genital Mutilation in London’ – makes recommendations for the Mayor to support frontline professionals with a responsibility for tackling FGM to work together to make London a ‘zero cutting city.’
The report follows a conference held by myself and others in the London Assembly which brought together practitioners from the health, social care and education sectors, in addition to police. It found that many frontline professionals are unsure of how to respond, greater coordination at a regional level is needed and community groups are key to safeguarding women and girls.
That’s why the report I spearheaded on FGM in London is helpful, as it provides a summary of our findings and our recommendations to the Mayor. We want the Mayor to champion the fight against FGM in London and translate his promises into action. There is no single, or simplistic, solution: the image on the front cover of this report, taken from comments made at our conference, shows the complexity of preventing FGM in London. I make this clear in my letter to the mayor that you can find here.
As FGM survivor, campaigner, author and dear friend of mine Hibo Wardere and I spoke about in this interview, the conference and report are the first step but community outreach and working together is essential. I implore everyone to read Hibo’s harrowing but powerful book ‘Cut’ which exposes the true depth of the problem not only here in the UK, but across the world.
Again I thank Hibo for all of her great work on this matter and look forward to us working closely together in the future.
Watch our interview here.
Read the report here.