Change needs to start in Britain

Share
Related Topics

There are three stages of horror in a woman's life, a well-known saying in the Horn of Africa goes, "the day she is mutilated, her wedding night and the day she gives birth".

What people here find hard to grasp, as well as this being practised in the UK, is that it completely ruins a woman's life, turning joyous events like the beginning of a love affair into a nightmare. In the part of London where I live, I meet a lot of women who tell me they have been cut. To remove the clitoris is the worst thing. It is not just some little operation that is painful but will soon be over. It will destroy what we think of as a woman. It will destroy her life, her sex life, everything.

It is child abuse, but in what are otherwise happy homes here in the UK, parents do this out of love for their children. They think they are giving them a better life. People think, "oh, these people are uneducated", but they are not, and often the parents are professional people.

The first time I found out about FGM, about 13 years ago, I felt completely horrified. Often, men are more horrified than women. I believe I was the first person to use the word clitoris in the House of Lords, when talking about FGM, and afterwards some men said to me, "Is it true? Can it really be happening?" Yes.

I don't think explaining it embarrasses people; it horrifies them, as it should. In all my time campaigning, little has changed, except there are many more groups now. (I used FGM as a subplot in one of my Wexford books – which reached a lot of people but it didn't have much more of an effect.)

Keir Starmer has come up with a 10-point plan which looks good. He has a steering group, but I have seen a lot of this type of stuff and nothing happens. Maybe this will be different. Up to now the police haven't been able to get evidence for one prosecution, which must change. They must try harder to find witnesses to come forward – there have been prosecutions in France, Italy and Sweden.

Accurate figures have also been a problem. I have heard numbers of children at risk in the UK range from 15,000 to 60,000. We need to know the numbers. The danger is that it looks as though it might be a fantasy, but it isn't; the FGM National Clinical Group is doing something to address that.

We need more education right through the medical profession. Even my GP, who is excellent, said he didn't know about FGM until I told him. The problem is one of culture that has spanned centuries. In parts of Africa, up to 99 per cent of women are cut. What we need to do is start change here.

Baroness Rendell of Babergh, the crime writer, is patron of the FGM National Clinical Group

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Manager - SAS - Data Warehouse - Banking

£350 - £365 per day: Orgtel: Manager, SAS, Data Warehouse, Banking, Bristol - ...

Web Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – Up to £43k

£35000 - £43000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Internal Project Manager - Business Analyst, Financial Services

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: One of the best known and most pr...

SQL DBA/Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer
 SQL, C#, VBA, Linux, SQL Se...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Our limited generosity is being wasted on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Tom Peck
 

What's the most meaningful response we could have to the murder of James Foley?

Archie Bland
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment