FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION IN THE UK AND EU

Body Image, Equal Treatment, ethic minority, Evening Standard, Freedom of Speech, Gender, Immigration, Women's Rights

The often taboo topic of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was raised sensitively in the media last month.

Thousands of girls mutilated in Britain

Reversing female circumcision

I am proud that the UK is leading the way in Europe by assisting victims of this savage crime quickly and confidently via advertising a targeted NHS service to reverse female circumcision.

In the European Parliament one of the changes in attitude that the Daphne fund (one of the EU’s prime sources of funding for awareness-raising, prevention and protection of victims of FGM) sought to achieve is an end to the grimly scandal mongering tones occasionally struck by media’s coverage of FGM. Such tones often only serve to make affected women feel guilty, hence wounding them psychologically and increasing their sense of being an outsider.

I think it is an outrage that, despite 25 years of legislation, not a single person has faced prosecution for the barbarous act of female circumcision, which claims the well-being of approximately 500 girls a year in Britain.

At the end of last month I supported a resolution, put forward in the European Parliament Women’s Committee, to make all EU Member States enforce their existing laws on FGM and introduce new tough measures to stamp out cultural tolerance of this practice.

Locally everyone can make a difference by helping to integrate immigrant families more successfully. Female genital mutilation is carried out in accordance with tradition in certain communities in the UK. These traditions come from other parts of the world and flourish in other European countries.

There therefore needs to be a massive global effort to break through these barriers and protect girls from this barbaric practice.

A very good video explaining the effects and attitudes towards FGM in Somaliland can be seen here:

DOES ANYONE EVER GET AN ANSWER TO A PRIORITY WRITTEN QUESTION TO THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION?

Body Image, Commission, equality, Gender stereotypes

You may have seen the blog which I have copied at the end of this post which went up on 5 December.

You will see that I put down a priority Written Question to the European Commission. This was, in fact, sent to the Commission on 3 December 2008. To date I have not heard anything back from either the relevant Commissioner or any Commission official.

I have therefore sent the following letter to Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, the Cyprus Commissioner with responsibility for public health, feed and food safety and animal health and welfare (and incidentally a woman).

Dear Mrs Vassiliou,
WRITTEN QUESTION – ANSWER P-6662/08
You will recall that I submitted a priority Written Question to the Commission on 3 December 2008 about the website
http://www.farmland-thegame.eu/home_en.html.

I have not yet received a reply.

As you know from reading my Question, I am extremely concerned that a website developed and funded by the European Commission to teach children about farming in Europe uses an inappropriate image of a young female. The image in question shows an unhealthily thin and provocatively dressed girl who is used to guide visitors through the site.

Such an image is both an horrific gender stereotype and an unhealthy example to the very children for whom the site is intended. You will be aware that the European Parliament recently passed a report seeking to end the use of obvious gender stereotyping. Given this, I find the Commission’s seeming disregard for the views of the Parliament both worrying and insulting.

I have to say, the neglect of my Question has only added injury to the aforementioned insult.
I trust you will reply as a matter of urgency.

Yours sincerely,
Mary Honeyball MEP

Earlier blog posted on 5 December 2008

COMMISSION WEBSITES
This new website, developed and funded by the European Commission, came to my attention this week:http://www.farmland-thegame.eu/home_en.htmlThe site aims to teach children about farming in the Europe. Sadly it completely ruins any good work it does by using an image of an unhealthily thin and provocatively dressed young girl to guide users through the site.I find it both shocking and depressing that the Commission’s Department for Health and Consumer Protection finds it acceptable to promote their work by using this image. Not only is it a horrific gender stereotype but it is also an extremely unhealthy image to promote to children. In the recent gender stereotyping report passed by Parliament, my colleagues and I noted that children are particularly impressionable audiences and that promoting unhealthy and unrealistic body images can negatively affect young viewers’ self-perception.The DG Health evidently was not listening.I have written a priority question to the Commission asking them what they were thinking of when they made this site and how much it cost to develop. I am also currently rallying support in the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee to take further action.

BODY IMAGE

Body Image, Gender, Sexual Equality

A report on how marketing and advertising affect equality between women and men has just been passed by the European Parliament Women’ Rights Committee.

It is an important document, highlighting how advertising fuels and highlights inequalities based on gender. Since advertising is designed to influence us, its impact on sexual equality cannot be underestimated. The report drew heavily on research conducted in Germany by the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and the Ministry of Labour in Poland. which showed that gender stereotypes consolidate narrow gender roles, thus restricting life opportunities.

I put down amendments to the report on body image, drawing attention to a publication by the British Medical Association entitled “Eating Disorders, Body Image and the Media” which states that media portrayals of the ideal body image can adversely affect the self esteem of women, particularly teenagers and those susceptible to eating disorders. One of my amendments called on advertisers to consider their use of extremely thin women more carefully while another pointed out that advertising could be a strong tool in challenging and tackling stereotypes.

I also submitted an amendment expressing extreme concern at the advertising of sexual services in local newspapers and other publications, something I know Harriet Harman, Barbara Follett, Fiona Mactaggart and other sisters in the House of Commons are taking up.

All my amendments were passed by the Women’s Committee and will now be voted on by the whole European Parliament.