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:


Freedom of Speech

I think Britain is wrong to ban Geert Wilders. I disagree fundamentally
with his views but being against a particular religion’s views is not the
same as racism.

Britain has had many politicians visit who believe women have a secondary
place in society, I would never call for their banning. This is a fine
distinction but I think free speech is more important.

Look at the letter. The key phrase is:

“The Secretary of State is satisfied that your statements about Muslims
and their beliefs, as expressed in your film Fitna and elsewhere, would
threaten community harmony and therefore public security in the UK.”

This says we fear violence. There is a problem if we view threats of
demonstration as meaning there may be violence. I would have joined any
peaceful demonstration against Mr.Wilders views. The government line seems
to be that they cannot trust some aspects of British society to be
peaceful in their protests. By implications this means Muslims. I find
this kind of indirect distinguishing between groups far harder to fight
than the open bigotry of Mr. Wilders.

I have also found that Muslim constituents I have worked with are
universally peaceful. This kind of view allows the very small minority who
might have “threatened community harmony” (Whitehall translation –
violence) to dictate the media view of Muslims.

So the 99% plus of Muslims who are law abiding and tolerant are tarnished
by the tiny minority who threaten violence. It is like saying we should
judge British politicians by the utterance of the grotesque Nick Griffin
of the BNP.

Absurd and wrong. Perhaps Mr. Wilders will look at the provisions for the
freedom of movement of workers provisions Britain has signed up to?


Far Right, Freedom of Speech, Jo Brand

I read this weekend that Jo Brand, the famous comedienne, is under police investigation for an anti-BNP joke she made during a BBC performance of “Friday Night Live At The Apollo.” What is more, the police have questioned those responsible for the production and a file has been sent to the CPS to “to determine if there is enough evidence for a successful prosecution to be made against Miss Brand or the BBC.”

The Daily Mail reported a file on Jo Brand has been sent to the CPS who are considering whether to prosecute

The Daily Mail reported that a file on Jo Brand has been sent to the CPS to consider whether to prosecute

Brand said: “Let’s start with some important political news. Did you hear this, right, that BNP members and supporters have had their names and addresses published on the internet, hurrah! Now we know who to send the poo to!”

As a passionate believer in freedom of expression, I find it disgraceful that Jo Brand or any performer should be subject to this kind of police investigation for what is obviously political satire. Political satire, is not meant to be taken literally, but it is very good at making a point really hit home: in this case that the BNP are a very nasty group of individuals who have no place in British political life.

Living in a democracy means that sometimes you have to listen to points of view that you disagree with. Personally, I found the performances of Bernard Manning or Alf Garnet, extremely offensive, for example. But I don’t think that either should have been put in prison and had the key thrown away. There are other ways of dealing with this kind of thing and today that kind of content would not be tolerated.

We rightly have laws to stop those who would use violence from preaching and encouraging others to join them in their misguided cause. But this is something entirely different. There is a lack of common sense on behalf of the police.

If the police are to now threaten or raise the possibility of criminal proceedings against performers and in particular political satirists or comedians then this will have a chilling effect on a fine British tradition that has served us well in the past at repelling the true preachers of hate.