Tag Archives: female genital mutilation

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

New figures emerged last week which revealed over 1,700 women and girls who have been victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) have been treated by the NHS since April this year.

This is an astonishing figure and shows this disturbing crime has many more victims than was originally understood. The figures provide the first official data on the numbers of FGM cases seen by the NHS in England.

Broken down, the numbers are even more concerning. In September alone 467 previously unknown FGM victims were treated at NHS trusts across the country.

The data has been produced to inform people about the scale and horrific nature of the crime, and is part of a drive to eradicate FGM on British soil. The figures provide a harrowing narrative to what is a vicious crime. You can read more here.

The outgoing president of the European Commission appeared on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday, where he made it very clear that the UK would have “zero” influence if it voted to leave the European Union.

Jose Manuel Barroso warned Britain would not be able to negotiate with the US and China “on an equal footing” on its own. Cameron has failed to understand much of the country’s relationship with the EU and it was therefore not surprising that Barroso concluded by spelling out clearly, that the free movement of people within the EU was an “essential” principle that could not be changed.

You can see the interview with Barroso here.

A bizarre story appeared last week when it was revealed that Apple and Facebook will pay for female employees to freeze their eggs.

A ‘perk’ of up to £12,000 is being offered to help women employees freeze their eggs in order to allow them to focus on their career at the Silicon Valley companies. On the face of it may appear to be a good natured offer, but actually there’s a far more cynical twist.

Of course, should women choose to, they have the right to freeze their eggs but the idea that they should do so in order for it not to get in the way of their careers is both bizarre and offensive.

The freelance journalist, Dani Garavelli wrote in the Scotsman on Sunday how the ‘back-slapping’ culture of these companies considered this to be the answer to a ‘problem’ faced by most businesses. However, it remains totally distasteful to be offered as some kind of incentive or reward package.

As Garavelli says, they are mostly white 20-something men: “You can picture the high-fiving and backslapping that greeted the light-bulb moment. Someone had a vision of a brave, new world in which the whole, messy disruptive business of reproduction could be passed by.”

You can read more of Garavelli’s view here.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

Andrew Rawnsley discussed what he called the ‘omnishambles’ that is the government in his column for the Observer this week.

As he said, ‘it’s a great word which encapsulates the government’s serial misjudgements and misadventures, from granny taxes and petrol panics to the boomeranging budget and Theresa May’s lost day.’

Miliband managed to make use of the word during last week’s Question Time, and as Rawnsley pointed out it was a public space in which to get the word out there in the hope that it enters the British lexicon.

Rawnsley questions whether this current situation is a blip or something more significant for the coalition government, after all the Budget was over a month ago and that kicked off this period of omnishambolism which has yet to show signs of improvement.

Rawnsley suggests we are seeing something more significant than a blip. You can read his full article here.

Something of a shocking statistic was revealed over the weekend in the Sunday Times which suggested that some 100,000 women in Britain have undergone female genital mutilations (FGM) with medics in the UK offering to carry out the illegal procedure on girls as young as 10, the paper reported.

Investigators from the Sunday Times said they had secretly filmed a doctor, dentist and alternative medicine practitioner who were allegedly willing to perform FGM or arrange for the operation to be carried out. The doctor and dentist deny any wrongdoing.

The practice of, or arranging for, FGM to be carried out is illegal and can carry a sentence of up to 14 years.

That anyone would face this kind of barbaric treatment is incredible, that it is happening on our doorstep is shocking and indicates just how little we know about this terrible crime.

You can read more here.

The first round of the French Presidential elections is complete and François Hollande has moved a step closer to becoming the new President, the first socialist in a generation.

For President Sarkozy it is particularly humiliating because this is the first time an outgoing President has failed to win a first-round vote in the past 50 years. You can read more on the first round of the election here.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

There is just one post devoted to the prevention of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Whitehall, and the government has abolished it. Campaigners said the loss of the FGM co-ordinator will undermine efforts to eradicate the practice.

Some 24,000 girls among FGM-practising minority ethnic communities in Britain are estimated to be at risk of the procedure, in which part or all of their genitalia is cut off and stitched up without anaesthetic.

The Home Office insist the work of the FGM coordinator will not end. Rather, it will continue to be carried forward by individual departments where we believe it will be better integrated.

You can read the full story here. I hope that this important role is not diluted into the work of many people and therefore the important subject forgotten about.

And The Times reported last week that almost 100,000 acres of England’s public forests will be sold regardless of the outcome of the independent review of the future of Forestry Commission land, the Government indicated yesterday.

Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, told MPs on the Commons Environment Select Committee that sales of 15 per cent of the 638,000 acres of public forests would go ahead within the next four years to raise £100 million.

Have I missed something here? I had thought the environment secretary agreed not to sell off our forests…? I recall just a month or so ago that the government was forced into an embarrassing u-turn over its decision.

But this u-turn on the u-turn, as it were, seems to have taken place with relative ease. You can read the full story here.

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The Tories’ Real Record on Women’s Rights

I have been reading with some amazement recent statements on women from senior Tories, in particular David Cameron and Theresa May.  In David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative Party spring conference last month, he emphasised how “family-friendly” his party’s manifesto would be with the “right to flexibility to everyone with children”.  Last week Theresa May used the occasion of International Women’s Day to make a “pledge of support for women” in the Guardian online pages. 

All fine sentiments, but female voters beware!  Beyond Cameron and May’s words, there is little sense that there is any support for such policies in the core of the Tory party, or little evidence that the party leadership have the will to implement them.  Indeed, as I have blogged before, the voting record of Tory MEPs on women’s rights issues since David Cameron became leader is appalling, and exposes the fact that really nothing has changed in the Nasty Party.

For example, in 2006 Tory MEPs voted against a Report on combating violence against women, which included provisions on making rape within marriage a criminal offence, eliminating female genital mutilation, and encouraging cross border cooperation on so-called “honour” crimes, all matters mentioned by Theresa May in her Guardian article as commitments of a future Tory government. 

Yet it seems her MEPs do not share these concerns.  As recently as 2009, the Tory MEPs abstained in a vote urging member states to improve their national policies on combating violence against women, where the importance of recognising rape within marriage as a criminal offence was again underlined. 

On childcare, the EU adopted Employment guidelines as part of the EU’s Growth and Jobs strategy in 2008.  These guidelines included targets for flexible working, and access to childcare, surely a key element of Cameron’s pledge of the “right to flexibility to everyone with children”.  Again, this failed to get the Conservative MEPs’ backing.

In February of this year, the Tories voted against a report which included provisions on the need to tackle the gender pay gap – another issue Theresa May purports to be in favour of – and to link maternity and paternity leave.  The Tories in the European Parliament explicitly disagreed with the call to establish paternity leave across Europe, and against linking paternity and maternity leave to ensure fathers are able to take time off as well.  The report in question also contained a provision on one of David Cameron’s priority policies, combating persistent sexist stereotyping and degrading images.  Again the Tory MEPs voted against.

David Cameron said last month in his speech that as a parent he “dreads switching on the television and being bombarded with commercial messages”.  However, in 2008, the European Parliament discussed the issue of advertising and stereotypes in the media.  Member States were urged to ensure that marketing and advertising did not uphold discriminatory stereotypes, and consider the impact of advertising on children and teenagers’ body image and self-esteem, and yet 15 Tory MEPs still managed to vote against this measure.

I continue to be amazed at the disingenuousness of Cameron’s approach.  If he and his party were serious about family friendly policies and women’s rights, they would not let their MEPs vote so brazenly against these reports which recognise the importance of these issues. 

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that, with a general election drawing near, the Tories suddenly remember that they need to try and appeal to women, who do make up over 50% of the electorate, but I would urge female voters not to fall for these well-scripted sentiments, when time and time again it can be shown that they are not supported by the Tories in any way that matters.

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FGM – A European Issue

FGM/C (female genital mutilation/cutting) is a controversial and divisive issue which tends to spark strong feeling from those on all sides of the debate. This practice, which in my view is deeply abhorrent, is typically associated with countries such as Somalia and Nigeria. Yet what most people fail to realise is that this harmful custom is also increasingly affecting girls and women in parts of Europe, including the UK.

While figures on FGM are patchy (particularly in Europe as it is often not reported to authorities), it is nonetheless estimated that almost 130 million women throughout the world have been subject to mutilation. The UK has in recent years seen a rise in the numbers of cases. A study by the Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development estimated that 66,000 women living in England and Wales had been circumcised, usually prior to leaving their country of origin. The 2003 Female Genital Mutilation Act is supposed to protect girls and women taken overseas for the purpose of genital mutilation; yet, shockingly, there have been no prosecutions under the law to date.

In order to raise awareness about this issue, I was asked to host an event yesterday in the European Parliament, ‘Abandonment of Social Norms Harmful to Girls and Women’, which focused on the practice of FGM. It was organised by UNICEF, and brought together speakers, predominantly women, from all over the world. I opened the event with a few words about how the problem of FGM has been addressed at the European level. Others, such as Francesca Moneti, who is a Senior Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF’s office in New York, spoke about how the practice has been impacting upon women generally.

While there is currently no harmonised EU legislation on FGM, the EU has nonetheless made some important gains. The EU-funded Daphne programme, which seeks to combat violence against children, young people and women, has been the prime source of funding for awareness-raising, prevention, and protection of those who experience, or are at risk from, FGM. As of September 2008, it had financed 14 FGM-related projects, involving a total of €2.4 million.

During the past two years, The European Network for the Prevention of Female Genital Mutilation (EuroNet-FGM) has supported the establishment and development of National Action Plans for the elimination of female genital mutilation in 15 EU countries. It also organised an International Conference on Female Genital Mutilation in the EU, held in Brussels in April 2009.

The problem is that measures like these, while praise-worthy, have so far been ineffective in stopping FGM in Europe. So what more should we expect of the European Union? In a 2008 report by the Women’s Rights Committee, it was suggested that a European Health Protocol should be established to monitor the numbers of women who have undergone FGM. It is true that the gathering of scientific data might be an important tool to assist efforts in ridding the world of FGM. Yet before that can happen, I believe that all European governments should publicly recognise the problem of FGM in Europe and bring it up as a key issue at all levels. One opportunity to do this would be on ‘International Zero Tolerance to FGM day,’ which began in 2003 and takes place on the 6th of February.

However, simply denouncing FGM and condemning perpetrators cannot alone bring about the necessary change. FGM will only disappear if people, both women and men, are satisfied that they could give up the practice without doing away with important aspects of their culture.  For this to happen there needs to be more dissemination of information and appropriate education about this issue.

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