Religious and community leaders in the UK have condemned Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) terming it “unacceptable practice.”
Representatives from organisations including the International Relief Foundation, FORWARD and the Muslim Women’s Network UK yesterday met government ministers during a summit at the Home Office in London.
They signed a joint declaration against the practice of FGM, which they hope will send a clear message to communities across the UK that the practice is an extreme form of violence against women and girls and is not supported by any religious doctrine.
They also stressed that FGM is a human rights violation and can have a lifelong impact on survivors’ physical and psychological health.
FGM is a criminal offence and child abuse in the UK. The Government has said it is “committed to ending this extremely harmful practice.”
Prime Minister David Cameron will in July host the Girl Summit. The Summit is aimed at mobilising domestic and international efforts to end FGM and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) within a generation.
During the Summit, UK representatives of all the world’s major religions will sign the final declaration.
“Female Genital Mutilation is a terrible practice that is not condoned by any religion,” Norman Baker, Minister for Crime Prevention said. “Political or cultural sensitivities must not get in the way of uncovering and stopping this abuse. The law in this country is clear but we need to win hearts and minds if we are to end FGM.”
Lynne Featherstone, International Development Minister and Ministerial Champion for Violence Against Women and Girls Overseas, said: “Faith and community leaders are fundamental to the work to end FGM. They have the power and the influence to bring about change in their communities and communicate the true harm that is caused by this practice.
“Their commitment is vital to successfully stopping FGM within a generation.”
Stephen Williams, Minister for Communities, described FGM as “an abhorrent practice that has no place in this country.”
Shahin Ashraf, Muslim Chaplain and National Network Coordinator for the Muslim Women’s Network UK, said: “The role of religious leaders is imperative in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation.
“No girl or woman should ever be forced to choose between her safety and her religious community and tradition and it is our sacred obligation to be just agents of change against this unjust practice.”
Naana Otoo-Oyortey, Executive Director of the Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development (FORWARD) said they were “pleased to see the government recognising the importance of community voices in ending the practice of FGM.”
“At FORWARD we work with communities to enable social change in terms of attitude and behaviour in relation to FGM and we hope this declaration will create further commitment in engaging affected communities to end this practice,” Ms Otoo-Oyortey said.
Dr Mohammed Fahim, Chairman and Head Imam at South Woodford Mosque, said: “It is important that communities condemn Female Genital Mutilation, which is not a religious requirement.
“It is an evil practice, which destroys the lives of young girls. Women have the right to an enjoyable, fulfilling sex life but FGM denies them this right and causes many marriages to collapse.”