A specialist cross-government unit to tackle female genital mutilation will be established in Britain, the Home Secretary announced today, as part of a raft of measures aimed at combating crimes against girls.
Speaking at a global summit in London hosted by the British Government and Unicef to bring an end to FGM and forced child marriage, Theresa May said the changes would “ensure that we can maintain the momentum on stamping out these harmful practices”.
The FGM unit is expected to be similar to an existing one on forced marriage, which is run jointly by the Home Office and Foreign Office to help victims, investigate and prevent the crime. Other measures include criminalising parents who fail to prevent their daughters being cut and putting doctors, teachers and nurses under a legal obligation to report cases of FGM.
An estimated 137,000 women and girls could have undergone FGM in England and Wales, according to the figures published today.
The Girl Summit at Walworth academy in South London was attended by world leaders, campaigners and survivors of FGM and child marriage.
Countries promising to do more to prevent more girls falling victim to genital cutting and forced marriage included Ethiopia, which pledged to eliminate FGM by 2025, alongside India and Pakistan. Also promising to combat the cutting of girls was Somalia, which currently has the highest rate of FGM in the world, with 98 per cent of women cut.
Women’s rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai challenged those who said that FGM and child marriage fitted in with Islam. She said: “Islam is a religion of peace and Islam gives equal rights to women so I think there are people who need to read the Quran again, there are people who need to do a bit more study.”
Ms Yousafzai told the summit that these abuses of girls could only be stopped if people questioned tradition. “We should not be followers of those traditions which go against women’s rights,” she said. “We are the human beings and we make the traditions and we have the right to change them. Traditions are not sent from heaven, they are not sent from God. It is we who make culture and we have the right to change it and we should change it.
Speaking at the summit yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron said FGM and childhood forced marriage should be ended “within a generation”. He described the practices as “standing rebukes to our world” .
Farwa, an 18-year-old from Pakistan, opened the meeting with a personal account of her fight against being forced into marriage as a child. She was taken out of school at 14 to get married but managed to escape the fate after her aunt intervened.
“I ask parents who don’t give girls their rights, 'why, why do you do this?'” she said.
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