Get serious with fight against Female Genital Mutilation, UK urged

The UK has been urged to develop a long-term, comprehensive strategy to tackle Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

The Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development (FORWARD) and the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKRWO) made the call as the world marked the 9th International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.

FGM is a form of violence against women and girls and a human rights violation. The practice is illegal in the UK and is classified as a form of child abuse, yet in 2007 it was estimated that more than 32,000 girls were at high risk of being subjected to it.

Over 66,000 women and girls living in the UK have already undergone FGM. While FGM has largely been perceived as an African problem, new research has revealed that it is also widespread in some Asian and Middle Eastern countries.

In January the first conference on FGM in the Middle East found that FGM is practiced in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

“Until now, action on FGM in the UK has been piecemeal and only focused on African communities,” said Naana Otoo-Oyortey, Executive Director of FORWARD. “The UK needs a more holistic approach, with demonstrable commitment on educating social workers, school teachers, doctors and other professionals and engaging affected communities so that we can work together to end FGM.”

FORWARD has welcomed the recent establishment of an All Party Parliamentary Group on FGM.

“FGM is a serious crime under UK law, but we know that the practice is continuing within Middle Eastern and African communities,” added Diana Nammi, Director of IKWRO. “Greater effort is needed to raise awareness within affected communities of the impact that FGM has on physical and mental health, and to convince parents that FGM is a violation of girls’ rights which will not be tolerated and should be stopped.”