The Case for a National Action Plan

By Charlotte Broad

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a horrifying practice which is happening on our doorstep. There is 170,000 women in the UK who are living with FGM[1] but yet the government’s response and prevention work is simply not good enough.

FGM is a form of circumcision, it is the removal of some or, in certain cases all of a women’s external genitalia. It is extremely prominent in some parts of the world. In Somalia for example, more than 90 per cent of the female population aged between 15 and 49 have been ‘cut’. However, it is not just an issue which happens in other parts of the world, it is happening right on our doorstep with an estimated 170,000 women and girls living with FGM in the UK.

FGM is child abuse. There is no denying this and it is essential for prevention that it is viewed in this way. There is horrifying lifelong effects of girls that undergo FGM. This can range from physical effects; complications in childbirth, difficulty urinating and sexual dysfunctions as well as emotional and psychological impacts such as shock and anxiety[2].

FGM is fundamentally rooted in patriarchy. There are no medical reasons or benefits as to why a women would need to undergo such a traumatic and horrifying experience. The practice stems from the belief and need to control a women’s sexuality and making sex less pleasurable for them. The practice is also seen to prolong a women’s virginity and make her faithful to her husband after marriage.

It is appalling that despite the estimated 65,000 girls aged 13 and under who are thought to be at risk of FGM in the UK, little has been done by the government to support the prevention of FGM from the grass roots. I have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of grassroots intervention and absence of a national action plan that we have seen from this government. If we want to implement real change we need a fully comprehensive action plan, which seeks to prevent FGM and support those who have undergone it. Without an action plan all work that is done is a knee jerk response and not a long term solution.

Furthermore, FGM has now been a crime in the UK for 30 years. However, despite this there has never been a conviction in the United Kingdom. For me, this is an outrage. It sends out a message that FGM is an unpunishable offence and is not a serious crime. Without convictions it is worrying that this horrific violation of women’s and girls’ rights will not be seen in this way.

FGM is an essential part of the Dare2Care campaign because it is a form of child abuse and must be recognised as this. It is essential that a fully comprehensive national action plan is instilled to ensure that women and girls are protected from this horrendous patriarchal practice.

[1] Female genital mutilation: the case for a national action plan., 2015. House of Commons

Home Affairs Committee. Available from: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmhaff/201/201.pdf

[2] United Nations Population Fund., 2015. Female genital mutilation (FGM) frequently asked questions. Available from: http://www.unfpa.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-fgm-frequently-asked-questions#psychological_effects