Impact of the first ‘successful’ FGM prosecution in the UK

By FORWARD, the leading African diaspora women’s campaign and support organisation, with a focus on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), child marriage and obstetric fibula.  FORWARD is also a B-MAG member organisation.

In light of the mother of a three-year-old girl becoming the first person in the UK to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM), FORWARD, a London based African women’s organisation, raises concerns and is surprised that there seems to be general rejoicing that a successful prosecution on FGM has finally happened in the UK. This is time for deeper reflection. If indeed FGM did take place then we have to remember that a vulnerable girl has been harmed, a girl was NOT protected and we need to ask questions as to why this Failure to Protect occurred in the UK.

FORWARD’s position has always been that ALL girls should be protected from undergoing FGM. This means that key professionals should be trained to be able to speak to communities about the real risks of FGM and to be vigilant in protecting girls. At the same time communities should be empowered to take responsibility for protecting their daughters from FGM. For many communities who practice FGM, this is an embedded social norm, which means that families come under huge pressure to continue this practice. Thus, it is very important to tackle the barriers to engaging FGM affected communities in the UK. Without effective community engagement this social norm will take longer to shift.

FORWARD’s Executive Director Naana Otoo-Oyortey comments: This case highlights sadly what FORWARD has always feared, that girls remain at risk of undergoing FGM in the UK, not only abroad. Therefore more needs to be done at policy and community levels to safeguard the rights and dignity of all girls.

This case has left us with more questions than answers: we need to look out for the emerging and changing trends associated with this practice. Where do we go from here?  

While FORWARD does not know the technicalities leading to the conviction of this mother, we recognise that FGM is an extremely complex issue and agree that those guilty are punished accordingly. We reiterate the position that policies and laws should be backed with adequate funding to ensure that communities who are affected by FGM are informed of these laws, that professionals are adequatel,y trained to provide sensitive and correct information on FGM to parents and girls, to effectively safeguard girls and prevent such crimes happening. FGM is an entrenched harmful practice that has affected more than 130 million girls and women globally. Many migrant communities residing in Europe continue the practice. In the UK it is estimated that over 137,000 women are living with the consequences of FGM and 60,000 girls are at risk. FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985 and the law was revised in 2015. Where do we go from here? From the perspective of affected communities, a large proportion face lack of employment and/or fixed income, housing, immigration whcih undermines their participation. Thereafter these communities sometimes lack access to effective legal advice and good representation.


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