UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 934-i

House of COMMONS

Oral EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE the

International Development Committee

Violence Against Women

Tuesday 12 February 2013

ms bernice sam and ms annmarie mavenjina

detective superintendent keith niven, detective chief inspector iqbal singh, ms efua dorkenoo and ms nimco ali

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 – 89

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the International Development Committee

on Tuesday 12 February 2013

Members present:

Sir Malcolm Bruce (Chair)

Hugh Bayley

Fiona Bruce

Richard Burden

Fabian Hamilton

Pauline Latham

Jeremy Lefroy

Michael McCann

Fiona O’Donnell

Chris White

________________

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Ms Bernice Sam, National Programme Coordinator, Women in Law and Development in Africa Ghana, and Ms Annmarie Mavenjina, Women’s Rights Adviser, ActionAid Tanzania, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Good morning, and welcome to our Committee. As you may appreciate, this is the first formal evidence session we are holding on our inquiry into violence against women and girls, and thank you very much for coming in. I wonder for the record, first of all, if you would just like to introduce yourselves?

Annmarie Mavenjina: Good morning. I am Annmarie Mavenjina. I work with ActionAid Tanzania as a Women’s Rights Adviser.

Bernice Sam: My name is Bernice Sam. I work as the Executive Director of Women in Law and Development in Africa. I am based in Ghana.

Q2 Chair: As I say, thank you both very much. The first thing we have to say is that of course violence against women happens in all societies, but obviously it is perhaps more prevalent and more extreme in some circumstances than others. We are trying to look at the incidence, the causes and, much more to the point, remedies to try to change the situation. I wonder first of all, in the context of your own countries Ghana and Tanzania, what is the kind of violence that is most widespread against women? Also – and perhaps it sounds like an obvious question, but maybe it is not – who are the main perpetrators? Who is doing the violence?

Annmarie Mavenjina: The main types of violence that are prevalent in Tanzania are related to domestic violence, and then rape and female genital mutilation. For the rape cases, the perpetrators are men, some men who are not gendersensitive, and for female genital mutilation it is women who have traditionally been performing the act of FGM. For domestic violence sometimes it is intimate partners, sometimes it is their husbands, and sometimes boyfriends.

Bernice Sam: Thank you for having me here. With respect to Ghana I want to read a few headlines from some of our newspapers, to give an idea of the forms of violence we have in the country. The first one says, "Woman’s eye removed over jealousy," and it is jealousy by a male partner. "Girl, 6, butchered by her parents." "Woman, 32, remanded for threatening to kill husband," and here I would want to question why she wanted to kill the husband, but of course she has been remanded in prison custody, so you may want to interrogate that as well. The next one I have is, "Man nabbed for killing, burying wife." These give an indication of the kinds of violence we have in the country.

Similar to Tanzania, we have intimate partner violence: that could be physical violence, psychological violence. Sexual violence is quite prevalent. We are seeing many cases of defilement of children, boys and girls below 16 years. We are seeing a lot of rape, adult rape of course. We are seeing a lot of sexual harassment within the workplace and in educational institutions. There is also economic violence, where women’s earnings are taken away from them by their male partners, where women are prevented from working, where money for the sustenance of the family is not forthcoming from the breadwinner or breadwinners.

We are also seeing quite a number of traditional practices against women. I will give you two quick examples. Recently in a town called Dove, which is spelled like "dove", girls who are menstruating and women who are pregnant or having babies are banned from doing that in that village. They must go outside the village to complete their biological menstrual cycle or to have babies. In another community, when a chief passed away, it took nine years for the three widows to go through the customary rituals that would allow them to become free to be able to go to the farm. They were confined to their homes for nine years. These examples just tell you the magnitude and the kinds of violence we have in the country.

Q3 Chair: Do you see the situation as having got worse in recent times, or better, or stayed the same? You are obviously doing something about it, but is anybody doing something about it, and is it having any effect? Are there any things that have been positive in terms of impact?

Bernice Sam: Let me quickly refer to research that was done in 1998 by a civil society organisation, which looked at the prevalence or incidence and the kinds of violence we have. That research found that one in three women had been physically abused, one in five women had undergone psychological violence, one in five women had experienced forced sex in her life. Since that research a lot of advocacy has gone on by civil society organisations, by Government agencies, and we have had many things happening. One of the critical things that has been done by the Government is to institute what then was the Women and Juvenile Unit of the Ghana Police Service. It was a unit that did a lot of education on violence, and so got many people reporting violence to that unit.

Of course a few years down the line men began complaining and boys began complaining that it could not be a Women and Juvenile Unit, because men are also being violated, so the name was changed to Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit, to take care of women, men, boys and girls. That has been done. We have a law, a Domestic Violence Act, in place. We have criminal offences on some of the customary practices, like what I described. There we have the witches. When you are older, you are labelled as a witch in some parts of the country, and you are banished from your community, so you go and live in a camp, or when your husband passes away you undergo very cruel widowhood rites. All these are criminal offences. Female genital mutilation has been banned as well; it is a criminal offence.

A lot is happening, but there is also a lot that has to happen, because violence against women and girls is a development issue. It is not something we can put in a box. We cannot make it something that is, "Oh, it is one of those things." It goes to the core of all the development efforts by the Government, by development partners, by DFID, to get poverty out of the way. If women cannot work because they are abused, if women cannot take care of their children because their partners are not providing for them, then the efforts we put into infrastructural development, into institutional support, will not give us the results we want. I want us to look at violence against women as a development issue. The magnitude, the incidence and the impact affect all the development aid we have, unless we take concrete measures to address the root causes of violence against women and children.

Q4 Chair: What about Tanzania? What is the situation there?

Annmarie Mavenjina: The situation in Tanzania? Recently there was research undertaken in December, by the leading civil society organisations working in the area of women’s rights. On the prevalence of female genital mutilation, the statistics reflected that one in seven women had undergone female genital mutilation, and then we also have laws that are conflicting. Before 1998 we did not have specific legislation dealing with offences related to violence against women. Then in 1998, as a result of advocacy efforts by civil society organisations, the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act was enacted and was incorporated in the penal code.

However, there is a gap in the law: female genital mutilation is not allowed, all acts relating to sexual violence are not allowed, but for that particular law it prohibits female genital mutilation below the age of 18. What happens in practice, for those who are aware of that law in the rural areas, is that they do female genital mutilation for women who are above 18, or for very tiny babies, because they know nobody will check on those babies when they go for antenatal clinics, or when they go for health checkups for the babies. Sometimes when you get married in the rural setting and you have not undergone FGM, your inlaws or relatives can arrange for the other women who are traditionalists to be able to perform that act on you.

One of the organisations we work with strategically as ActionAid conducted research in one of the rural areas, Tarime, where FGM is very prevalent, and between November and December, more than 500 girls were just walking past the police station, going for that event where they would have female genital mutilation. The police officers did not take any effort to prevent them, and when they were asked why they were not intervening, they said that with the degree of violence in that community, the community would end up overpowering the police. We have issues relating to enforcing laws; there are some laws in place, but they are not being adequately enforced. Some of the cases of violence against women are not reported, because they are two different levels.

You may try as an organisation to bring about behaviour change in the community, then the number of people reporting increases slightly, but the courts are not functioning and are not giving priority to issues related to violence against women. For a murder case, a State Attorney will be allocated to support whoever has been accused of performing the act of murder, but for issues relating to rape, FGM and all that, it is not your right to get a State Attorney. You have to opt for legal aid services, and legal aid services are not available all over the country. There are about eight key organisations that provide legal aid. There are also paralegals, but mainly for acts related to violence against women, sometimes the State Attorneys will support but it is not really a legal requirement. The prevalence of violence against women is still high in Tanzania.

Q5 Hugh Bayley: Can I just come back? I am sorry, I did not follow that last point. You said in murder cases, the person who is accused has a state lawyer?

Annmarie Mavenjina: Yes.

Q6 Hugh Bayley: But in rape or FGM cases – can you explain again? You said they have to apply for legal aid. Who applies, the victim -

Annmarie Mavenjina: Yes.

Q7 Hugh Bayley: - or the person accused of committing the violence?

Annmarie Mavenjina: As an advocate – I am an advocate – the Law Society or the Government can assign you a brief to go in and defend a murder case, because according to the criminal laws that we have, if someone has been accused of murder, they are entitled to get a State Attorney to defend their case. However, for someone who has undergone violence against women, there is not much priority given to them, because there is no provision in the law that entitles you to have someone to go in and defend you. The options you would have are to resort to legal aid services from organisations that provide legal aid, or go to the police station to report the case, but with the system we have in place, the police may not investigate; the culprits may decide to pay some money and then due to corruption your case will not be proceeded with.

Q8 Hugh Bayley: Can I just ask one further? Thank you very much. You are making a strong political point that a murder gets legal aid, but a victim of FGM or domestic violence does not. You said in this area of high prevalence, the police were afraid to arrest because the community would attack the police station or take reprisals. In other parts of the country, are there many cases brought against perpetrators of domestic violence or FGM? How many cases are brought per year in Dar, should we say? Has the fact that people are taken to court and convicted of these reduced the incidence of violence?

Annmarie Mavenjina: I did research in 2011. We were working with different organisations, so I went to conduct research in the main district court in town, checking on the court registries to see the prevalence of violence against women and violence against children. Out of every 10 cases you would get a number of cases related to abuse, but if you check on the status of the case, it would be either dismissed, or the survivors or victims had not turned up to follow up that case further. If you have a law that states that once someone commits an offence of rape they will go in for 30 years, and the victim is supposed to be compensated, but court cases take a very long time, what happens is that the perpetrators decide to pay the victim’s family money so that they do not proceed with the case any further.

Then, sometimes, the whole process – you have to fill in police form number 11, you have to go to the hospital, you have to go to the court, different places, and they tell you you should not wash yourself once you are raped – means that for some women they feel they cannot go through that. You have faced enough, you have been raped, then you go to the police station with all those clothes, not changing or anything, then from the police station to the hospital and after that, that is when you go to court. Then the perpetrators, when they pay some money in the police station, they are let off, and then you have to follow them up in court.

It is only in Zanzibar, where there is the onestop centre, that you get the police, the health personnel, the counsellor, plus the lawyers. That is something that is working out gradually in Zanzibar, but on the Tanzanian mainland we do not have a onestop centre in place. You have to go to the different service providers, and once you get all that evidence, that is when you go to court. If the police form number three is not filled in well, forget about your case; you will end up losing it. Then once the judge mentions the case and then says, "Come back tomorrow or the other day," most of the women end up giving up, so that discourages them from reporting it.

That is why, if you are dealing with violence against women, you have to deal with it at different levels: do the behavioural change at community level, deal with the institutional reforms like the courts plus the policymakers, and at the same time work with other organisations, whether it is the health personnel or the police. Now there is the Tanzania Female Police Network. Before, the police never used to offer userfriendly services, but after the Police Network was set up, 417 Gender Desks were put into police stations. A Gender Desk is like a specific room of police personnel who has been trained to be able to support someone who has undergone violence. There are also men who undergo violence, but it is mainly prevalent for women, so with the initiatives that civil society organisations and the police are taking on together, it is helping to reduce the prevalence rate.

Q9 Jeremy Lefroy: Very briefly, in Western Tanzania, particularly in the Mwanza area, there was a lot of violence against older women suspected of being witches.

Annmarie Mavenjina: Yes.

Q10 Jeremy Lefroy: I remember it particularly from the 1980s and 1990s. Is that still prevalent? What is the extent and what is the Government doing about it?

Annmarie Mavenjina: For the elderly women, if you had red eyes and all that because you are using firewood to cook and you have grown old, most people are then thinking, "Oh you are now a witch, you are the one who is bringing all this bad luck and omens to the people in your community." That story is going on, but later on, with interventions from civil society organisations and Government also taking the initiative it is reducing, but it is something that happens sometimes. What distracted people’s attention from that was when they saw the issue of albinism came about, because they were thinking more about albinos than thinking of the elderly, but they also need their rights to be protected.

There is also the constitutional review process that is going on now, so that is one of the areas where civil society organisations have been pushing to ensure that protection of the rights of the elderly, vulnerable women and children are taken care of also.

Q11 Jeremy Lefroy: Just to follow that up, you mentioned about albinism. That is a real issue, is it not, at the moment? Obviously we are talking particularly about women and girls here, but albinism is something where albinos are killed, particularly for body parts, is it not?

Annmarie Mavenjina: For that one what happened, during the time of elections in 2010, most politicians, and sometimes others, believe in witchcraft and all that, and then there are also business people who feel if they take the body parts of the albinos they will grow rich and all that, and if they export it to their neighbouring countries, or they use it in their fishing communities. Those are certain beliefs relating to witchcraft, which people thought if they are able to get the body parts of the albinos then they will be able to make it in life and prosper.

It is not really something true, but it is what happened in Tanzania, and that tarnished the image of Tanzania within the East African community, because before it was considered a peaceful country, but after that most people felt it was not something good. But now the albinos in Mwanza, some of the children have been put in schools where they can be taken care of, because there was a lot of pressure put on the Government over that particular incident.

Q12 Mr McCann: Good morning, ladies.

Bernice Sam: Good morning.

Annmarie Mavenjina: Good morning.

Q13 Mr McCann: I am afraid my question is about Tanzania as well, so I think it will be Annmarie answering it. Our figures show that Tanzania has one of the highest domestic violence rates in the world, and around 70% of women experience violence in their lifetime. What would you say are the contributory factors that make that figure so high?

Annmarie Mavenjina: We did a research as ActionAid last year, and we have also been checking the research of other organisations. The main contributory factor there is patriarchism, and then some of the culture. Some of the men feel that if you do not beat your wife, you have not shown her how much you love her. That is in areas like Tarime. It also happens that you may have men who are living in the urban area, but they have grown up in a rural setting, so they end up having that culture. One night one of my neighbours was beating his wife, and then when I went to check – it was around 11 or 12, and I said, "I cannot say I am doing women’s rights work, then hear something of the sort happening in the neighbour’s house and just cover myself and sleep." I thought, "I will go and knock on their house." Then I went and asked him, "What is going on here?" and then he told me he had come back late at night and he had knocked on the door and she had taken a long time to open, so he felt he ought to beat her up so that next time she can open very fast.

Sometimes it depends on the cultural setup. Other times, other contributory factors include if people are committing acts of domestic violence, and no action is being taken against them. You go and report to the police station, and what used to happen in the past is that the police would tell you, "Oh, no, this is your own family issue. Go back and sort it at home." But with the Gender Desks now, at least the police are taking some action. Another factor that contributes to that is that some of the women feel ashamed to go and report such incidents, so there are repeat cases, which keep on going on, which is why we are trying to have behavioural change also. For some of the men, others are just frustrated, so they feel maybe they will beat you, they will put you in your place.

Other factors that contribute to domestic violence are if you do not have specific legislation that says exactly what is supposed to be done in such incidents and clearly defines what amounts to domestic violence, and cases also are not fasttracked, you may file a case in court and it takes too long, and the perpetrator is not convicted. That is one of the factors that contributes to persistent domestic violence.

Q14 Pauline Latham: This is a question for both of you, not just about Tanzania. What measures, if any, would you say would help address domestic violence in your countries? Practical measures such as refuges for women can help. What other areas do you think could be improved?

Bernice Sam: To address violence against women and girls, we would need measures at two levels. The first is to look at the institutions that exist to protect women and girls who undergo violence. Here I am referring to the courts, the police, the Social Services, and of course we have in the country. There is a law in place. The police have a special unit, as I mentioned, the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit. There is a domestic violence court, so we have several courts that address just that.

Q15 Pauline Latham: Are the units run by women? Or are they run by men?

Bernice Sam: No, these are both men and women who are trained, but it is an initiative within the police service to have these units. Presently we have 100 of these units across the country, which has increased the reporting of violence against women and girls, and of course against men and boys as well. We need a lot more courts, domestic violence courts where judges are trained to understand the power play between men and women and that violence is about the power inequalities between men and women. They need to understand that, because we have more male judges than female judges, and we do not want to assume that female judges, by the fact that they are women, will understand the gendered undertones of violence against women and girls. They need training.

The police also require training to be able to do their work well, and the way they receive victims or survivors of violence, where they will put them to sit, where they will ask them questions, prosecution and all those things come into play. At the institutional level we need that kind of support, and that support has to be coordinated. It should be such that we do not have them working in isolation – the police work in isolation, the health sector works in isolation – but we need a coordinated approach, which is backed by policy and law, which requires all the different actors to play a role.

For example, if a woman walked into a police station and said, "I have been abused by my partner," the police should be able to refer her to a psychologist, who should be able to refer her to a doctor, who should be able to refer her to Social Services if she requires to go into a shelter, who should be able to refer her to a court. It should be coordinated in a way that allows us to provide a holistic support to a survivor of violence. That is at the macro level, if we could say that. However, it is also important to look at an approach that goes down to the community, to prevent the violence from happening in the first place.

Here we are talking about addressing the social norms where people see violence as an acceptable practice, and looking at communities having sanctions within the communities to address violence. I will give an example. What we have in my organisation is what we call the Community Reconciliation Committees. These are people from the communities who are provided with alternative dispute resolution skills, who are taught the laws that protect women and children, and their roles in the communities are to continue the sensitisation, to work with traditional leaders, with women’s groups, with men’s groups, with youth groups, and where there are cases that they can take and settle, like nonmaintenance of a child, it does not need to be taken to the police station. The woman is looking at, "If my husband is incarcerated, who will help me to take care of the child?"

They can educate the man to understand his parental responsibilities. They also will be able to assist a survivor who wants to go to the police to follow a case through to the court. We are looking at a twopronged holistic approach at the institutional level to support the State institutions, to protect women and also to address the discrimination that happens in the country. I also wanted to relate this to other developmental issues, because where we have people who are unemployed, we get the symptoms: unemployment can lead to violence. Where we have a lot of drug or alcohol abuse it can lead to violence. Traditional practices and people’s beliefs can also lead to violence. We need to be addressing all of these things. We cannot just look at one aspect of the problem and leave the other.

Of course this year with the emphasis by the UN on prevention, soon there will be the Convention on the Status of Women happening in New York. The UN SecretaryGeneral’s statement is already out, and it emphasises prevention alongside providing the support in terms of legislation, policies and financial support to State institutions. We would need to look at both of these approaches: the prevention aspect, education, sensitisation, community mobilisation as well as a protection part where we work with institutions to protect victims or survivors.

Q16 Pauline Latham: Where do you see donors coming in to assist this?

Bernice Sam: If I can just focus a bit on DFID, as I am in the UK, DFID’s support in the area of violence against women and children, or women and girls, in Ghana has not been very big. In fact, I checked before coming how much money DFID has put into civil society organisations’ work to address that, and the total amount they gave me was in the range of £373,000. That is not a very big amount of money, and that is going to five civil society organisations only. DFID has also provided some support to the Government to undertake a survey on violence against women and children. It is a small amount – I did not get the exact amount, but I know the research has not been completed.

DFID’s allocation is part of a pooled fund in Ghana. It is called the STARGhana Fund, which has DFID, USAID, EU, and the Dutch are contributing too. I would want to see a lot of DFID support to the country officers focusing on violence against woman and girls. It should look at the two approaches: support to State institutions, because the courts need support and we need more domestic violence courts. The police need support; I have the annual report of the Ghana Police Service, and they are crying for more vehicles. Sometimes they have survivors and they cannot help them. We have three small shelters in the country: where do they take children who are abused and need that facility immediately? There are issues there.

I also want to see DFID support going into women’s rights work, those who provide the services, as you mentioned – the legal aid, the education, the community sensitisation. I would want to refer to funds like the MDG3 Fund of the Dutch Government, which provided money specifically for gender equality, and huge amounts of money that went to various groups across the world to do work on gender equality. I believe that with a lot of emphasis on violence against women and girls last year and this year by the international community, if DFID can get the country officers, as well as its policy, focusing on violence against women and girls, that will go a long way.

They should also ensure there is a monitoring system to get the country officers to report on how well they are supporting organisations and the Government, and to report on these to Committees such as yours, such that you can track the results that you are getting, the prevalence rates that are reducing, the reports that are going up, but those reports go with support for State institutions and more CSOs working to address the issue at community level. I think that is the way that DFID and the UK Government should go.

Q17 Hugh Bayley: In this country, the women who are most at risk of violence are lowincome, lowstatus women. Some professional women and women with their own independent means are, of course, victims of violence, but they are less at risk, I suppose, because they are more aware of their rights, how to get protection, how to go to the police, and so on. From my experience in developing countries the same is true. To what extent do you think this problem can be addressed by addressing the underlying power relations, and what should be done to address these problems, these cause factors?

Pauline Latham: Can I just challenge what you have just said? I am sorry to interrupt, but it is not the case that if you are not educated it does not happen to you. That is totally untrue.

Hugh Bayley: I did not say that. In fact, Pauline, if you had listened, I said there are cases, but there is a lower incidence and there is a higher incidence.

Pauline Latham: It is still a lot of cases, and it does not mean to say that they get the help.

Q18 Hugh Bayley: I agree with you on that; I do not disagree. Perhaps the first question, then, is: do you agree that the more unequal the power relations between men and women, the greater the risk of violence? What can be done to strengthen women’s hands in those relations?

Annmarie Mavenjina: To some extent, when you have equal power relations, it contributes to violence against women, but still, violence against women is something that happens to women from all walk of life, whether you are rich or poor, educated or not educated. The only difference is that for some women who are educated or higher class, they prefer not to go on talking about it, but to just seek legal help and follow all the procedures, but reporting in the media or telling everybody, but it happens all over.

What could be done about it to reduce it? The initiatives that have been undertaken in Tanzania, like having the onestop centre that I shared about. It is a hospital facility, where you can go and get support from the police, get support from the legal aid provider, and the counsellor, and other things that can also be done. You have to deal with it at the community level, to try to change their behaviour and also at an institutional level, to try to change how long a case takes in the judiciary.

In Zanzibar, just last week, a userfriendly children’s court was launched, with facilities where children can give their evidence in camera, without having to face so many others, but we did not have that before. If we have maybe a court that is userfriendly for women, and then judges and judicial personnel who are also trained on why they have to fasttrack such a case so that the woman is able to feel that her rights have been made, and so that she is able to get her compensation, that would discourage other potential perpetrators from getting involved in violence. It would also encourage other women to report, and gradually that would bring behavioural change in the community.

It would also contribute to reducing the levels of poverty, because Government resources are used to intervene in this, and civil society organisations are also using donor money to intervene in this, so a lot of taxpayer’s money is being taken in this area. Then also doing monitoring and evaluation: so many interventions are undertaken without having a baseline survey in place. You may have the World Health Organisation having its own statistics on Tanzania and other countries, civil society organisations have their own statistics, the police have their own, but if a baseline survey is done to check on the whole prevalence rate, then if money is put in to take interventions, it will be easy to measure the progress, when the midterm survey is done, and later on.

Also, if monitoring and evaluation is strengthened, it is possible to track the progress and see the changes in the community. Other practical things that can be done, which are costeffective, include Community Development Facilitators, whom ActionAid works with. Those are ordinary men and women within the community, who live in communities where people experience violence, and the doors of their homes are open anytime. Someone can go and knock and share about their case, because violence happens at night, sometimes when someone comes back drunk and decides to abuse their wife or children. In incidents like that, the Community Development Facilitators come in handy: because they are closer to the community, it is possible for them to follow up with the victim, to support them in going to court, to support them in going to the police station. That is one of the ideas that can help.

Something else that can be done is strengthening in the police. In Tanzania, after the Female Police Network was set up, it opened up police stations to women, children and even men, because some of the police officers within the 417 Gender Desks have received training on how to handle people who have undergone genderbased violence, so when they offer services in a way that people feel comfortable to open up to them, it encourages people to report cases of violence.

Q19 Hugh Bayley: Could I ask the same question to Bernice?

Bernice Sam: Sure.

Q20 Hugh Bayley: What can donors do to address the unequal power relations and the social norms that precipitate violence against women?

Bernice Sam: Thank you very much for that. I can give the exact DFID contribution in Ghana. It is £373,260, in support to five civil society organisations to do work around violence against women and children. Specifically to the question that you asked, we can improve women’s and girls’ social, economic and political empowerment. On social empowerment, to give an example with respect to the education of girls, we have had many projects in the country focusing on safe schools, to enable girls to remain in school and get a basic education, and go through high school. That can be looked at. It also means that girls need to know their human rights.

Our experience is that as you get the girls to understand that you are a person of value, you are a dignified person, and you do not have to say yes or condone certain acts of violence, it enables the girls to negotiate sexual violence, to be able to say no, and to have a vision that they want to finish school and become some important people in society. Addressing girls’ education is very important, in an environment that enables them to thrive without fear that they could be sexually abused by their peers or by their teachers. It also means we have to look at economic empowerment of women, particularly young women, those who unfortunately are not able to continue beyond high school, to be able to get vocational skills and to be able to earn an income for themselves, so that we do away with the dependency on male partners to be able to survive, as it were.

When you depend on a male partner then you are more susceptible to accepting violence as a way of life because you do not have any income of your own, so girls’ empowerment, women’s empowerment, is very important. On women’s empowerment, I want to make reference to the small and mediumscale enterprises that many women get into. Many women are in the informal sector, so getting access to small loans, microfinance as we call it, or microcredit, to be able to do some work. There is a lot of evidence and research that shows that when a woman is economically empowered, she is able to address violence. She is able to say no, because she does not depend on the man for her money. She can better support and take care of her children, because she can contribute or pay for the school fees of her children. She can give them better healthcare, and all that.

Women’s economic empowerment is very important. Also women’s political empowerment; the more women we have in decisionmaking positions, the more we can look at the issue from a policy level, from sharing of views at the table, to make decisions that address this problem in our countries. Of course it is a universal issue, and it is not peculiar to Africa that within the legislature we have very few women. When you come to the local assemblies, again, there are few women. In Ministerial positions there are few women. It is important to address women’s participation in decisionmaking, through measures such as affirmative action, through getting our Government to work towards gender equality, putting in place measures that will get more women in positions of power, to be able to look at measures that can address violence against women and children.

We also need to look at the symptomatic problems, because when people are unemployed, when there is alcohol or drug abuse, all those things have to be addressed, and that means that we are looking at creating jobs for people. That means that we are looking at services that provide support for people who abuse alcohol or people who are going through depression, or are frustrated. They should have somewhere to go. I also want to underscore the point that emphasis is put on helping the survivor victim, but not the perpetrator. We have said that men are the majority of the perpetrators, but whilst we are focusing on providing support, protecting and promoting the rights of the survivors, mainly the woman or the female, we forget that the perpetrator also needs help.

In looking at a holistic approach to dealing with the problem, we need to make sure that we are not just incarcerating men who are abusing, but alongside that they are getting the counselling, they are getting the support. There are groups – the name escapes me – where they can sit and listen to their own problems and they can learn from each other, there are counsellors to help them. That must happen.

Q21 Fiona O'Donnell: You have answered a lot of the questions I was going to ask, which is very helpful. I wondered if I could ask something a little bit different. I am just wondering about the variations in prevalence in different parts of your countries in violence against women. Is there a difference between urban and rural, or is it all on a tribal and cultural basis?

Annmarie Mavenjina: There is a difference, depending on the setting. There are some areas where female genital mutilation is practised, like in Tarime, Singida, different areas where within their cultures and customs, they used to have that practice, but in a place like Zanzibar, they do not have female genital mutilation. It is just one case that they had, when we were doing our research, but they told us that that particular case was not someone who was originally from Zanzibar, but someone from the Tanzanian mainland, and that was why they had that incident of female genital mutilation. It depends on the area.

For domestic violence, however, that happens all over, whether urban or rural. The one related to early marriage happens in places like Zanzibar, where due to the Islamic religion they feel as long as you have reached puberty you can go ahead and get married. On the Tanzanian mainland, early marriage also happens, because in the Law of Marriage Act, at the age of 15 you can get married, according to the law. We have the Children’s Act, which says the age of a child is 18. The Law of Contract says if you are below 18 you do not have the capacity to contract, but still the Law of Marriage recognises marriage at the age of 15 and below, with the consent of your parents.

Early marriage in such a context happens in the rural areas, especially if you link it up to education. Universal primary education is up to about age 12, 13 or 14, so if you are in primary school and in universal primary education, it is possible for you to delay marriage only up to primary level. Secondary education, however, is not universal as such: you have to pay for it, or costshare with the Government, so that contributes also to early marriage. If we had universal secondary education also, girls would stay in school for a longer time and they would not get married at an early age. The legal framework, the culture and the geographical setting are things that contribute to the variations in prevalence.

Q22 Fiona O'Donnell: Can I ask a bit more about DFID’s funding in both of your countries? Bernice, you were saying there were only five organisations. Can I ask whether either of your organisations is funded by DFID? Can you maybe tell us a bit about your experience of that? Do you get long enough that you are able to have sustainability in your work, and how does DFID monitor and evaluate that?

Bernice Sam: DFID funds us at two levels. One is our political participation work, which is a threeyear programme. We have a lot of money from DFID Ghana and DFID UK, and of course the greatest achievement is that we increased the number of women in the legislature from 19 to 30. That is wonderful; it is one fantastic result we got from all the advocacy and the work that we did. Of course at a local level we also increased women’s representation in the local assembly, but a lot more happened there. With respect to the work relating to violence against women and children, we apply through STARGhana, which is the pooled fund in the country. That process is quite simple, but highly competitive, because it is open to the entire country.

The amount of money you get there is not so much. It is projectised. It is a oneyear grant, limited to two districts out of 170 districts. Of course in one year you cannot get a lot of results; you just begin to see the immediate results, and not the intermediate or the ultimate results. In that respect the money that we got is quite small. It is projectised and does not enable you to recruit highcalibre staff. It does not enable you to do work at the community level with the men, boys, women, traditional leaders, for them to begin to change some of the norms that perpetuate violence. In that respect it is quite small, but the political participation work was big; we are almost ending evaluating it. Indeed, the results there are awesome.

Even from the implementers’ point of view, we have better results because it is longterm funding. We had time for women to engage with policymakers, and we are getting to the point where they can themselves, without us, continue the engagement around political participation at different levels. The point is that when there is longterm funding it allows you to see results and to report on results, because ultimately we want value for money, we want projects to be efficient. We want people to know that we made a difference in the lives of women and children in that community. That will require longterm funding but also core funding, because projectised funding does not help many women’s rights organisations to sustain our institutions, given that we complement the efforts of Government in addressing problems such as violence against women and girls.

Where there is no core funding it means that we cannot continue to keep a roof above our heads. We cannot pay our administration costs, and we cannot retain staff, because they will just leave for the corporate sector, for instance. Those things also impact on the other social problems that we have outlined in this conversation this morning. We need to look at core funding and longterm funding for organisations to do good work.

Q23 Fiona O'Donnell: Annmarie, do you know about the experience of organisations funded by DFID?

Annmarie Mavenjina: Yes. DFID supports ActionAid, but in the area of land rights. Women’s rights are also related in that area. Most of the funding from DFID is given under the Foundation for Civil Society organisation. That is like one of the organisations that most development partners put their money into, and then the Foundation for Civil Society receives applications from civil society organisations all over Tanzania. However, when you go through DFID’s key priority areas, violence against women and women’s rights does not come out as a clearcut priority for Tanzania, because there is agriculture, climate change and all that.

The money for DFID is channelled through the Foundation, and through that it is expected that the Foundation for Civil Society, through supporting access to justice programmes, will be able to cater for issues of women’s rights. However, the amount of money that goes in through the Foundation for Civil Society is not from DFID only. It is from different development partners, and the highest amount an organisation can get for a strategic grant is about £150,000, and that is for three years. However, if you are to track exactly how much money from DFID has gone in for violence against women, you want results but you also have to see how much you have put in.

If you could check on the Scandinavian countries, like what Danida has been doing now, they are supporting legal sector reform programmes, like supporting the Government’s general budget, and supporting the Foundation for Civil Society budget, but they have set up a separate fund, the Legal Sector Facility, which deals specifically with issues related to the legal sector. The Government had this legal sector reform programme, where all development partners were contributing, but it was taking quite some time to deliver results. After 10 years, the impact of the money that has been invested there has been seen.

What Danida has done now is that they have their own separate fund where they are supporting. Prior to offering support, or doing a call for proposals, they did their own independent baseline survey, checking on what the actual situation in Tanzania was, instead of just coming in and setting up money and saying, "Okay, we have this call for proposals." It is important that DFID does an independent baseline survey, so that by the time the CSOs bring in their proposals or the Government comes to request money for budget support, you have separate information you can use to gauge and say, "Does this proposal tally with what they are asking for?" Something may look so good on paper, but it may not be what is actually on the ground.

If a baseline is done by DFID, instead of just giving all the money to the Foundation or just supporting the Government, it would be very easy to monitor and track value for money, to hold Government accountable, to hold the civil society organisations accountable. Then I think the way the civil society organisations are held accountable is not the same way that Government is held accountable. I did finance and accounting, though I am a lawyer by profession, but the way you have to meticulously go through the financial reports and narrative reports is not the same way that DFID and different development partners hold Government accountable.

If Governments are also held accountable in the same way as civil society organisations, I think we will see more value for money, and taxpayers would also know exactly where their money is going and see the results. Then, instead of having just twoyear or fouryear projects, it would be better to have longterm projects or programmes in the development sector. What is happening for our development partners is that they are given a two–year or three–year pilot phase grant, to see how they are going to perform, and what exactly is happening, instead of just giving they money for three or four years and then when they do not get the numbers and all that, saying, "No, in the project document you said you will reach out to 2000 women. Now I do not see 2000 women I will not fund you anymore."

It would be good if there was a pilot phase for programmes funded by DFID, and then later on have maybe a midterm review, endline survey, and instead of having programmes just running for five years, like the DFID strategy, it would be good if, even after the five years, something else was done so that within 10 years, that is when you can see tangible results within the community. Otherwise, if you say two years, three years or four years you will just see numbers and results at output level, and how many people have done this. The actual change within the community may not be fully realised.

Q24 Fiona O'Donnell: The target for eliminating female genital mutilation is a generation, so maybe the funding should reflect that. Can I just quickly ask as well, you have all this evaluation and monitoring, but when good practice is identified and something works, is that shared within civil society?

Bernice Sam: Yes, we do share that, and we document good practices. I will give just two quick examples. We have a project that we did in 19992000, where we set up committees called Community AntiViolence Teams, or COMBAT. That was a model that worked quite well, because it was a model where communities took charge of the situation and had sanctions for persons who abused women and girls. The community leaders would sanction them, and if anybody hit his wife, they would come in and do the sanction themselves, even before the law came in in 2007.

The second is the Community Reconciliation Committee I mentioned. That is another model where the Committee is the one that sits, listens to complaints, receives complaints, addresses those that they can address, because it is about family relations and they want to keep families together. Even those that have to go to the police, they accompany the survivor to the police. These are models that we share, and they are reported in Government reports as well as civil society reports as well. There are several models that can be replicated.

Q25 Richard Burden: On the same line, you have been very clear about how you would like to see DFID be more effective in terms of both the kind of projects that it supports and the nature of funding, with core funding and longer–term funding, and about the way you share good practice. My question is, how good is DFID at receiving good practice and sharing good practice? The kind of things you have been telling us – do you get the impression that DFID is always on the lookout for what works, and then takes that on board, or not?

Bernice Sam: From my experience with the political project, which is a longer programme, we regularly briefed DFID Ghana on what we are doing. We shared the work we are doing with DFID. Sometimes I went in to brief teams that came in from the UK or from Ghana. We report on the programme through Womankind UK, and so I believe they are also able to share the good practices from DFID from their end, from the UK level. In terms of DFID looking out for good practices, they have done it in the past but I think it can be done better, where it could be part of the contract that is signed with the grantee, setting out some guidelines on how we should collect good practices, because we could put good practices in a framework that is easily shared over the internet or put on the website, or wherever, and then we can also talk about them.

Either a framework or guidelines on what we should be documenting as part of the contract or the project would then provide that evidence of what is working and how DFID can build upon the good practices. I also want to propose that it is important we have an end of evaluation conversation between the grantees and the donor, so that we can look at lessons. It is not just us doing an evaluation and presenting an evaluation report, because sometimes people do not get time to read a whole report, but if you can have a conversation at the end of the project and look at what the lessons are, what did not work, what can be replicated, then it is an opportunity to have conversations, take something away. Of course, the reporting template that we have has a lessonlearning part, where we provide some lessons that can be looked at in future programming.

Q26 Chris White: Good morning. I know you have referred to it briefly in a previous answer, but I wondered if you could confirm the legal age of marriage in both your countries?

Annmarie Mavenjina: In our country, for a girl, you can get married at the age of 15. If you are 14, or even below that, with the consent of your parents or the court you can get married.

Bernice Sam: The situation is different in Ghana. The age of being an adult is 18 years, which is in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Our constitution also says the legal age for being an adult is 18 years, so it is 18 and above. In fact, the Children’s Act says that where there is a marriage under 18 years, the parents of the girl or boy will be punished, so it is a criminal offence to have a child marry below 18 years. There has also been a lot of advocacy in the country about forced marriages among certain ethnic groups in the country and that they are reported.

I have some statistics of reports made of forced marriages, which are in the police data, and because there is an explosion of the media in the country, when something of the sort is going on you can get somebody calling a radio station, the police go in immediately to rescue the girl and take the girl to the shelter. Sometimes they run to civil society organisations. I have received some girls who have said, "Look, I am in school, my father wants to marry me off," and we call the parents and talk to them about the importance of the girl’s education, the implications of an early marriage on the girl. I have done two cases personally where the parents said, "No, we are not going to get that girl to marry, because we did not know the implications."

To answer you, the legal age is 18 years, but we do get some child marriages happening. It is a criminal offence, and the police take action when they hear about this.

Q27 Chris White: I suppose more specifically in Tanzania, what would lead a girl to be married under 18, and what do you think are the problems that would bring?

Annmarie Mavenjina: What would lead a girl to marry under the age of 18? Let me give you an example in Zanzibar. Because of Islam, their religion, they feel you are not supposed to have premarital sex. If a girl is caught having sex with a boy, they take a Swahili word which they call that like a "marriage on a mat". If they catch you having sex with someone, immediately the ceremony will be concluded. Your parents, plus the other family, will say you decided to have premarital sex, and then you will be forced to marry that person.

Sometimes, for violence against women, if someone has raped you or had sex with you, they feel now that they do not want to have you in their home anymore, so both families will sit and agree that you ought to get married to that person. They feel if you stay home and you are pregnant, you are bringing an extra mouth to feed, and it is somebody else’s child, not for their family, so you should go off and get married. Then for education, if you have to pay for your secondary education and then it is not really free of charge as such, and you have not passed to go to secondary school, some parents feel it is better to marry off their daughter while they are still young and have not got pregnant, so that they are able to get some bride price – either money, cows, or anything that they can get. It becomes an economic venture for the parents, while it is also a violation of the rights of the girl.

The legal framework we have means that if you have laws that permit people to get married below the age of 18, and then the Children’s Act was enacted just two or three years ago, where the age of a child was stipulated as 18, but you have a Law of Marriage that recognises marriage for boys and girls below the age of 18, those are some of the contributing factors.

Q28 Chris White: My final question would be, what interventions are you putting in place, or have been put in place, to start to push the age of marriage up?

Annmarie Mavenjina: The interventions that are being put in place include a constitutional review process going on in Tanzania now. Most civil society organisations, including ActionAid, are trying to push that the constitution should stipulate clearly the age of marriage for a child, and then all other genderdiscriminative laws, like the Law of Marriage Act, should be declared unconstitutional, especially provisions that promote that. Then at community level, there are the Community Development Facilitators, women and men within the community that ActionAid works with. We have been training them and sharing with them, first having dialogue in a community, finding out what their perspective is on violence against women, and then showing them the effects of marrying off their daughters at such an early age.

We also have, under our education programme in ActionAid, school clubs. Within this school club you let children open up and have their dialogue, but at the same time share with them what amounts to violence against children. Then we have collaborated with strategic stakeholders like the police and legal aid providers to see how to prevent early marriage. Those are some of the initiatives that have been taken.

Q29 Jeremy Lefroy: Just very briefly, because you have both already touched on it, what efforts are you engaged in, or have you seen, being made to reduce the incidence of female genital mutilation in your countries and elsewhere as well, that have been successful?

Bernice Sam: In Ghana it is a criminal offence to undergo female genital mutilation. The offence is interesting. The person who does the cutting and the person who sends the child to be cut are both punished. The clause of the law captures everybody. There are also organisations in the country that make it their priority to continue to educate communities where this practice goes on that FGM is a criminal offence and should not happen. That is going on, but in other countries in West Africa, FGM is prevalent: in the Gambia, in Burkina Faso, in Liberia, all these things happen as well. I do not know the interventions they are making in those countries, but I can talk for Ghana and say that we have a law that prohibits it.

It does not mean that it does not happen, because laws are good, but they are only good if people know and take the steps to report when somebody flouts the law. There has to be continuous education to get more people to understand that it is wrong. There have been a lot of documentaries on TV showing the gory nature of FGM, which many people really cannot watch. These are ways by which people are understanding the health implications of FGM on women and girls. To again go back to the social norms, it is also addressing the fact that it is not right that a woman should undergo that to be able to get a husband to marry, so it requires sensitisation with community leaders, not just to know that it is a law, but to get them to understand that it is simply wrong, and the health implications that this has on women and girls.

Annmarie Mavenjina: The initiatives that have been undertaken in Tanzania are related to having evidencebased research, like saying that one in seven women have undergone FGM and showing the health effects of that. Once you have the statistics and share with the community and the policymakers, that is something we have seen working. Before 1998, as I mentioned before, we did not have such a law, but after advocating, at least now we have it within our laws that female genital mutilation is not allowed. Still, we are also still pushing that now it should not just be age 18. That is one of the laws that ought to be amended, to remove it over age 18[?], so that female genital mutilation should not be allowed totally.

I think advocacy initiatives can work out; if it was not for advocacy work we would not have had that law in the first place. Another thing I have also seen working is media coverage. The media have been very proactive covering issues of female genital mutilation, bringing it out into public. Before most of our media houses would just cover issues related to politics, business, but once you bring issues of female genital mutilation, violence against women in the media, people are able to get more done and see how to work in that area.

Another intervention I have seen working is engaging men strategically, because most women do that saying, "I have to do FGM, who will marry me if I do not do it?" Once you engage the men and identify male champions, and tell them, "Look, that is your daughter, it is your sister. What if it were your relative, not just your wife? Would you permit it? Look at the health effects," using evidencebased research and having dialogue with them, I have seen that working within communities.

Q30 Fabian Hamilton: Can I ask you how you think the post2015 Development Goals Framework should take account of the need to address violence against women and girls?

Bernice Sam: I will go first. Because many countries fell behind in meeting the Goals, and also because gender was mainstreamed in almost all the Goals, and we did not get the kind of results we wanted, particularly for Goals Three and Five, maternal mortality and the one on education and political participation, I would propose that gender equality be made a specific goal moving forward, and to also focus on violence against women and children, so that we can keep our eye on it. We all agree that violence against women and girls is a development issue, and since the Development Framework is about seeing countries develop then we need to address some of the problems that push countries behind. There is no point talking about, "We have X number of high roads and we have built skyscrapers," when the people are suffering. We have to make it a categorical goal, and make it very clear that gender equality is a goal in itself. Violence against women and girls should be very key to achieving gender equality. Then we can monitor and put money into interventions that will address the problem.

Q31 Fabian Hamilton: So what you are saying is that development and gender equality are inextricable?

Bernice Sam: Exactly.

Annmarie Mavenjina: Personally I think it is very important to have something specific on violence against women, as in key performance indicators for different countries to report on. If you just have it broadly as gender equality without specifically having indicators to measure progress, then you may mainstream gender issues and feel you have taken care of women’s rights, but it can get lost in the whole process. I think it would be good if we had a specific standalone women’s rights Goal, with indicators showing issues of violence against women. It would then be possible to measure progress and see how different countries are progressively working towards achieving that.

It would also be important to hold our Governments accountable. Sometimes they take quite some time to report. Sometimes they feel, "Oh, after all, they have said we will do progressive realisation," so they say, "Since it is progressive realisation we do not have money for this," but there is money to pay the Members of Parliament, there is money to cater for the army, there is money to cater for security issues. What about violence against women?

If a women is not happy and she is in a violent situation, it affects the children, it affects the men, it affects everyone, especially in our context. If your Mum is happy and she is at peace, the children will go to school, the husband will go to work smart, everything will go well. Once she is angry then nobody in the house will be happy.

I think it will be very important to look at the issue of violence against women. It seems something small, but if you have an angry Mum in the house then there will be chaos for everybody, but if women are peaceful, that will contribute to development, it will reduce poverty, it will save a lot of money that we are using in other areas where, if we had a situation where women were peaceful and we had prevented violence or taken care of the women who have undergone violence, set in place clear indicators that countries can report on, it would make a whole difference.

Q32 Chair: I think, Annmarie, you have summed it up perfectly. Let me say from the Chair that the education and empowerment of women is in men’s interests, and we have to work on it together. Thank you both very much indeed for coming and giving us your experiences.

Bernice Sam: Thank you very much.

Annmarie Mavenjina: Thank you.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Detective Superintendent Keith Niven, Metropolitan Police Child Abuse Investigation Command, Detective Chief Inspector Iqbal Singh, Metropolitan Police Child Abuse Investigation Command, Ms Efua Dorkenoo OBE, Advocacy Director, FGM Programme, Equality Now, and Ms Nimco Ali, Daughters of Eve, gave evidence.

Q33 Chair: Good morning, and thank you all very much for coming in to speak to us. Again, just formally for the record, perhaps you could introduce yourselves, perhaps starting with DCI Singh?

Iqbal Singh: A very good morning to you. My name is Iqbal Singh; I am a Detective Chief Inspector in the Child Abuse Investigation Command for the Metropolitan Police Service.

Keith Niven: Good morning. My name is Keith Niven. I am a Detective Chief Superintendent, and I head the Child Abuse Investigation Command at Scotland Yard.

Efua Dorkenoo: Good morning. I am Efua Dorkenoo. I work with Equality Now, which is an international human rights organisation, and I am the technical lead on female genital mutilation.

Nimco Ali: Good morning. My name is Nimco Ali and I am the cofounder of an organisation called Daughters of Eve, which works with young British women who have been affected by, or are at risk of, female genital mutilation.

Q34 Chair: Thank you. Obviously this is an inquiry about violence against women and girls, but we thought in this session we wanted to look particularly at FGM. Perhaps just to start it off, the UK Government has set some ambitious targets. Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne has said that we have to recognise that if we are to take a lead in tackling it internationally, we have to do something about it nationally. I suppose the first questions is: do you agree with that? Perhaps I could start with the police dimension.

Keith Niven: Certainly. We do agree with that. We very much acknowledge the difficulties around investigating these cases, but we certainly think there is an opportunity nationally to work closer together in relation to this. Obviously the police perspective is that we investigate any allegations of crimes of this nature, and seek to prosecute, but also we have a responsibility in relation to safeguarding, because our child protection responsibilities are safeguarding and prosecuting offenders. I would certainly support a coordinated national approach, which I do not think is something that is robust at the moment, because as you have pointed out, if we have a national approach and coordination here, that can extend across and overseas as well.

Q35 Chair: I suppose the point I am making is that the British Government have said they want to see FGM eliminated worldwide within 25 years, but you have to start if it is happening in the UK, and we will come back to that in a bit more detail.

Keith Niven: Yes, absolutely.

Q36 Chair: Would you like to comment as well? Perhaps also at the same time you might say, "Why is it so high?" The figures we are getting on the incidence of FGM show it is not so high in the UK but it is here, and it is very high in some parts of the world. Why do you think that is, what do you think the UK, specifically, should be doing about it?

Efua Dorkenoo: In terms of the scale of the problem, I was speaking with the WHO just recently. They are going to come out with the actual figures, and it looks as if we are now talking about, for Africa alone, 110 million girls and women affected, and 3.3 million girls under the age of 15 at risk of it. The WHO will come up with the key document somewhere in the middle of the year. I think that it is linked to ethnicity, although we can have this huge range, where in places like Egypt the prevalence is 91%, in Somalia it is 98%, and we have a lot of Somalis here as well. In Sierra Leone it is also about 8090%; in Mali it is in the 90% range, but when you come to other countries like Ghana it is only 5%. You should also not be misled: if in Ghana it is about 25%, in the regions, in terms of the ethnic groups who practice it, if you go there, it is very high.

Q37 Chair: It is a particular group in which it is high, rather than -

Efua Dorkenoo: Yes, that is why it is key. It is more do with ethnicity, and the ethnicity goes beyond borders. We are now clear that in Indonesia it is a big issue, and what we are grappling with now is, rather than stop it, they are trying to medicalise it. It is being seen in Malaysia, parts of Pakistan, certain sects practise it. We are now getting more evidence that it is practised among Iraqi Kurds, and even in parts of South America, amongst indigenous populations – I think it is in Colombia.

It is an international kind of issue, and it is compounded by migration. For the UK we have figures from some studies that I led a couple of years ago, which are outdated. We estimated that 66,000 women are affected and are living in this country, and more than 24,000 girls below the age of 10 are at risk of female genital mutilation here. Therefore, because of the migration and the movement from home countries to the developed world, it has become an international issue.

Q38 Chair: That implies two different things. One is that people are migrating here who have suffered it, but equally that there is a generation of girls here – you say 24,000 – who are at risk. By "at risk", do you mean they are in communities that are likely to want to perform it on them, within this country?

Efua Dorkenoo: Yes.

Q39 Chair: Or do they send them abroad to have it done?

Efua Dorkenoo: They send them abroad. We do not have the full picture. There is anecdotal information that it also happens to girls here. The key issue for DFID is, because it is happening here – and the figures I gave you are based on 2001 statistics, and now we actually -

Q40 Chair: So it might be much worse.

Efua Dorkenoo: Yes, it has probably increased. We have had a lot of migration from these areas, because of the upheavals in some of these areas, like the Horn of Africa, sometimes also from West Africa, like at one time Liberia, Sierra Leone and all, because of Britain’s continued relationship with countries where there are colonial ties and all that. There is that inflow and outflow of linkages with FGM areas, areas where FGM is very high. It will be very difficult for DFID to focus just on Africa, because if we do not have our house right here, we do not have the voice to address the issue over there.

Q41 Chair: Perhaps a comment from you, Nimco, and then I will come back.

Nimco Ali: What I really want to say is, though I welcome the focus on FGM specifically, I think we need to stop looking at it as a separate issue. It is a form of violence against women, and the issue of why it has not been dealt with is because we have put it in this cultural culdesac. Where FGM is predominant, it stems from the inequality of women, and that is how violence against women manifests itself. It is FGMs, or where we have forced marriage and so on. For me FGM is a major issue in this country. I grew up in this country; a lot of my counterparts were born in this country, and we are all survivors of female genital mutilation.

It is this view of looking at it as though it is something happening through ignorance. It is not happening through ignorance. It is a form of control and oppression of women within those populations. For me, we cannot do anything internationally if we cannot do anything here nationally, because it is the same issue. We are not looking at FGM at its root cause, and that is the inequality of women within those populations that they live in. The law that we have here is also quite inept, in the sense that we thought FGM was a cultural issue and not a form of violence against women, so we have a legislation here where girls from specific communities are thought to be at risk of FGM, and other girls are legitimately allowed to have FGM on the NHS. We have to question ourselves and look at what female genital mutilation is.

Q42 Chair: Sorry, are you saying it is happening on the NHS?

Nimco Ali: FGM as defined by the World Health Organisation, which is the cutting of the female genitalia without any medical reasoning, is something that is not only common to Africa, it is something that is common across the world, and there are procedures on the NHS called labioplasty, which are equivalent to a form of FGM that happens in other parts of Africa and the developing world. We need to have those kind of questions of not othering women and talking about the issues of FGM as being unacceptable here and acceptable here. It is unacceptable in all its forms, and we work with young women from multiple communities, whether they are from Africa or from the UK, who have undergone FGM, and have identified the same that they have undergone FGM. For me that is the primary issue.

Q43 Chair: I am sure my colleagues will want to pursue that point, but just before they do, perhaps just turning to the police, you have said that you accept it is an issue that needs to be addressed and we need to do more about it, but the reality is that we have just heard that there are girls in this country at risk. Apparently it is happening in this country, whether it is in or out of the NHS. In fact, you can argue that it is not just the criminal offence of FGM, it is child abuse, because these girls are under age.

Keith Niven: It is child abuse.

Q44 Chair: And yet, tell me if it is true that there have only been three referrals in the last 30 years to the CPS, and no prosecutions? How is this? If I can just make the point, clearly some of these girls will present to the NHS, we are told, either because at the end of pregnancy they are not able to deliver and they have emergency caesareans, or they have some kind of infection that forces them to go. Is there no crossover of information between the Health Service and the police that would lead to prosecutions or referrals?

Keith Niven: Yes. The figures I have been provided with in relation to this – and this is since 2009, when we started to monitor any information on cases that might be referred to us in relation to FGM, either directly or indirectly – we have records of 148 referrals.

Q45 Chair: You have 148?

Keith Niven: Referrals to us.

Q46 Chair: In what time period?

Keith Niven: Since 2009. In relation to those, they are not all allegations of crime. They would be referred to us from potentially Health or Social Services Local Safeguarding Boards, in relation to women who have been subjected to this. Because that has been established, then it has been referred to us as, "Potentially this could be a risk of other children going through this process, or criminal offences." They have all been investigated, and we have a duty and absolutely a responsibility to investigate all those referrals.

We do those both by the police themselves and in partnership with Social Services, because we have joint investigations in child protection. Our records show that we have referred six cases to the CPS, and we think there is only another one in the country that has been referred that we are aware of. There are a number of difficulties that have been presented to us in relation to this. In fact we have one recent case in relation to which we have worked very much in partnership, where we have a victim who has come forward, and that case was progressing, but more recently the victim has pulled back from this because they are very concerned about the punishment that may be administered to family members.

There are many dynamics we have to consider in relation to this, but certainly from a police perspective, if we receive an allegation if FGM, you are absolutely right: it is child abuse, it is regarded as child abuse, and it is investigated as such. To date, however, and you are correct around this, there have not been any prosecutions in the UK around this. When you think about the 148 referrals, of which a very small percentage actually relate to the crime itself, it opens up a much wider issue.

That wider issue is about the confidence that victims and families have coming to the police to report these matters, and once they have reported them, then following those through to support criminal prosecution. We do not underestimate the enormity of the task here, working closely with partners, both with Local Safeguarding Boards, Health, Education. There is certainly a training issue in relation to all the agencies, so that these crimes can be recognised, and certainly the Children’s Commissioner more recently has introduced a risk matrix relating to child sexual exploitation. I think there is certainly some scope here for something along those lines, so that all the agencies can see.

Certainly if children are being taken abroad, what are the signs? How can we identify that children are being taken abroad for this purpose? It is all about intelligence, and confidence in the police and the agencies. You are absolutely correct, however, that there have no prosecutions that I am aware of for this form of child abuse.

Q47 Pauline Latham: Do you think you have sufficient resources to deal with the problem? Clearly the numbers you have talked about are the tip of the iceberg, I suggest, in this country. Do you have the resources? How many Met police officers are dedicated to FGM, and are they women or are they men?

Keith Niven: We have a partnership team. There are two parts to this: investigation of the crime, but partnership as well to enhance and cement relationships with other agencies. I have 16 child abuse investigation teams across London, and a number of other teams that specialise in more covert and proactive work. My partnership team, which is a small team headed by DCI Singh, has about six individuals in total. They have a number of responsibilities, and part of their responsibilities is to build those relationships and look to the other partners and outside agencies. If these investigations are reported to the police, I have 16 child abuse investigation teams across London who will investigate these matters, and they will apply the same level of resources as they would to any child abuse investigation.

Q48 Pauline Latham: If a case is reported to you, what exactly do you do? What is the procedure for getting to refer it to the CPS and therefore prosecution – which obviously we know has not happened?

Keith Niven: We obviously work very closely with our partners, Local Safeguarding Boards and Social Services, because safeguarding is primary. Do we need to address these issues for the victim? Is this something that is going to happen in the future? Are there other children at risk? We would have a strategy meeting straight away in relation to that with Social Services. Then we would look to proceed as we would in any other criminal investigation, whereby we would need to speak to the victim. That would be an interview with trained police officers who deal with it, if this was the case of a child involved, for example, specifically those interviews would take place. Safeguarding would take place around the child.

Once we had gained that evidence, that initial evidence, we would look to corroborate that. It may be that we would look for other family members, other witnesses, people who might have transport to take the victims abroad, and then we would be looking to see whether we could corroborate that abroad, which is very difficult, but they would be the areas we would look to. Very early on we would communicate with the Crown Prosecution Service, and that is an agreement that we have with the Crown Prosecution Service. We meet with them and have early intervention from them to review the cases at a very early stage. That would be the process, and once we had gathered sufficient evidence, the CPS would then apply their test to see whether or not this would be a matter that would then go to prosecution, and those tests are applied to all cases that we put before the CPS.

Q49 Fiona O'Donnell: Good morning, everyone. I am more familiar with the Scottish system in terms of safeguarding children, but I wondered whether you heard one of the witnesses in the previous session, from Ghana, saying that the person who is involved in sending the child for cutting is also charged and committed?

Keith Niven: Yes.

Q50 Fiona O'Donnell: I am just wondering – surely in this country, if a parent sends their child to be cut, that child would be put on the Child Protection Register?

Keith Niven: Absolutely. The situation would be, obviously, once we had that information, if the child was at risk then that child, as in many cases -

Q51 Fiona O'Donnell: "Was at risk"?

Keith Niven: If the child was at risk of that procedure actually taking place. As you say, let us for example say we have information that the child is going to be taken out of the country to have this procedure. Then if the system is working correctly and the information is put to the agencies and the police, we would take steps to remove that child from danger, or remove the danger from the child. You are absolutely right, and the people who commit the crimes are the people who perform the act, and also the people who arrange for that to take place. The parents would be liable to criminal prosecution, as would be the people who booked the flights, as would be the people who ensure the transition of that process. They would all be liable to that.

Q52 Fiona O'Donnell: So where it has been identified that a child has, would that child go onto the Child Protection Register?

Keith Niven: That would be a matter for Social Services to review that case. They certainly would have a strategy discussion and a case conference in relation to the safety of that child.

Q53 Fiona O'Donnell: I realise, as you say, there would be a case conference, but that if a parent allowed their daughter to be cut in that way, that child would not automatically always go onto the Child Protection Register – if you could allow someone to do that to your child, then you are not safeguarding your child.

Keith Niven: I am not saying that they would not automatically, but each case is dealt with on its merits. That would be a matter for the Chair of the Safeguarding Board, but like you, I think there are risks there and those risks have to be addressed.

Q54 Pauline Latham: How many people are you aware that has happened to?

Keith Niven: In relation to children going on the Child Protection Register?

Q55 Pauline Latham: Yes.

Keith Niven: I am not aware of any going on the Child Protection Register.

Q56 Pauline Latham: And yet you know of girls who have been cut, presumably? You know of those, but nobody has been put on the Child Protection Register?

Keith Niven: I am not aware of any, but that is not to say that they have not. In relation to the most recent case, that child is not with the family, so that is an individual who has been the victim of this crime, has come to us subsequently, and in liaison with the Social Services. However, that liaison with the Social Services had taken place before this matter had come to light, so that individual is safeguarded, because they are not within the family themselves. A lot of the referrals we have had, we have investigated those and we have arrested people, but there has not been any evidence. There might be information that comes to us from other family members, but when we investigated it, it has not been substantiated. Those incidents are referred to the Social Services, and the Social Services make judgments on the information they have.

Q57 Pauline Latham: Is not the evidence the fact that she has been cut? That is fairly obvious evidence. You have either been cut or you have not been cut.

Keith Niven: Absolutely, but a lot of our cases have been referrals where there have not been cuts. Of 148, a large percentage of those are information -

Q58 Pauline Latham: They might be.

Keith Niven: - that potential, maybe, might have been, and when they have been investigated, that evidence has not been forthcoming. However, each case is dealt with on its individual basis, and if there is a child that has been cut then we would seek to prosecute if we could gain the evidence to do so.

Q59 Pauline Latham: Could I just go back to the fact that Nimco Ali said about this happening on the NHS? Could you perhaps tell us a little bit more about that? I am pretty shocked to hear that. How many children are being cut on the NHS?

Nimco Ali: There is a caveat within the FGM legislation for forms of cutting that apply only to girls from African communities. So the data is quite loose, but I think there are about 300 girls who were cut last year alone from Bristol – girls under the age of 16 who asked for labioplasty, which is a form of female genital mutilation, which we would define as activist. For us, the confusion is that we cannot have this going on while we at the same time try to protect the children. In terms of looking at where FGM is common within those populations within the UK, the scenario that the police talk about is a very wishful one, but it is not one that is in operation at the moment. Children are not being protected, and we subsequently meet young women who have gone through FGM and also other forms of abuse. It is only then that they are removed from their families or they leave the family themselves.

One of the things that are going on at the moment is that there are a lot of cultural eggshells being walked on, and political correctness, and police not stepping in, and parents are being allowed to do these things. For us, the way we can get a conviction or prosecution is for us to actively prevent FGM. It is not necessarily just about the police and the CPS, but it is about teachers and social workers actively engaging in protecting these girls who have undergone FGM, who are at risk of FGM. If I just give you a stat that we got last week from Bristol, in one area of Bristol in the last quarter 173 women presented at maternity having undergone FGM.

One of the risk factors that we have is that if a woman has undergone FGM then her daughter is at risk of FGM, and Social Services, the NHS and the midwives should be on notice. Out of those 173 women, if 40 of those are girls then that is 40 girls being born in one hospital in Bristol that are at risk of FGM, but nobody is doing anything about it, because we are too politically correct to actually -

Q60 Fiona O'Donnell: And there may be younger daughters in the family who are still in the care of the parents.

Nimco Ali: Yes, or who have undergone FGM. One of the main issues is the fact that I know, as a sixyearold undergoing FGM, I had nobody to talk to. I told my teacher but she was not interested. The fact is that sixyearolds today are still at risk of FGM and they have nobody to talk to and nobody to tell. For us to expect a child to come forward with the evidence of a conviction is quite inept from our perspective. We as adults need to understand that the duty is upon us in order to seek that information and seek that protection for these children.

Q61 Pauline Latham: I could see DCS Keith Niven jumping up and down there. Do you have a view on that?

Keith Niven: Absolutely right. When there is information and evidence that children are at risk, then intervention must take place, I absolutely agree with that. I obviously do not know the examples from Bristol, but it is about safeguarding children, and that is with Social Services. This is where I speak about closer inter–agency working, and certainly working with other organisations in order to identify those risk factors. How do we identify those? Are we getting the referrals from Health? That is a very good source of information, where individuals have gone through this process, and other family members may be at risk. What we have found is that we have a lack of information in relation to whether this is being committed in the UK, and if it is, who is doing it.

That is an area we would like to explore with this. We have had very little information put forward, and I understand the reasons why there are sensitivities and people might not want to come to the police, but there are other ways in which information can come to us. Certainly we worked with two African well women’s clinics in London recently, and we had a seminar where we invited people to come and speak to us. We have produced a questionnaire that does not seek to identify people or to breach the confidentiality in any way, but just to see whether or not we can scope the issue, and through those organisations to say, "You can talk to the police."

It is about trust and confidence. Now post–Savile, the allegations and the confidence that the public have now gained because of Savile, I am hoping that at this stage that can permeate out as well into other areas where communities do not feel confident to come to the police. Working with the well woman’s group, with a questionnaire, will give us an opportunity to gain that information, because we want to find out, if it is taking place here, who is doing it. Then we can take action independently of the victim, so the pressure on the victim is not necessarily as much as it would be for other prosecutions, because we could independently find out who is doing it and gain evidence in other ways. I would certainly welcome working with our colleagues in relation to that.

Q62 Pauline Latham: Is Project Azure still operational?

Keith Niven: It is still operational, and very active.

Q63 Pauline Latham: It is? The website has gone down, apparently. It appears to have been taken down. But it is still going ahead?

Iqbal Singh: It is still going ahead. Project Azure is just a Metropolitan Police initiative, not a national initiative, but I will have a look at that, just to see.

Keith Niven: I am grateful for that, but Project Azure is very much up and running, and that is our partnership approach. Just to reinforce, the investigation is conducted by my teams that investigate child abuse.

Q64 Richard Burden: You have emphasised the importance of interagency working. What is your liaison like with other police forces? Given the fact that the prevalence of FGM will be concentrated in particular communities, which themselves will often be located and concentrated in particular areas, what is that liaison like? Do any of you, as well as looking to other Mets or other forces, make visits overseas to try to look at that end of the chain, and then work back to what is happening here to assist in your enquiries?

Keith Niven: We have an ACPO, Carmel Napier, who is the national ACPO lead for this form of child abuse, and we have the National Police Improvement Agency as well, who have a lead in relation to this. Talking about international communications, DCI Singh chaired a meeting before Christmas in relation to European police forces, and we went to Belgium to present how we have dealt with issues here and what our processes are – certainly with the French and the Dutch. DCI Singh might be able to expand on it, but we certainly have an international communication around this. Of course, because a lot of these acts take place abroad, they are areas we want to very much explore.

There is that liaison there, but at the moment obviously from the Metropolitan Police point of view it is very much about how we deal with the problem in London, but with the wider view to where this is happening and the views and education abroad as well, which is maybe where you could have an influence on our behalf.

Q65 Richard Burden: I think it is probably me, I missed the first part of your answer to that. You have been to conferences and seminars in Europe, to present what the Met does?

Keith Niven: Yes, absolutely.

Q66 Richard Burden: My question was also about whether or not there is the liaison with countries in parts of the developing world where FGM may be carried out, or indeed other countries in Europe where FGM may be carried out for UK citizens. Do those kinds of visits take place?

Keith Niven: I think there has probably been very little into international countries. Certainly my knowledge is around European liaison, but I do not think it has expanded out on a particularly wide scale from the UK to liaison with African countries. I know that the Foreign and Commonwealth have; I spoke to somebody a couple of weeks ago in relation to this, and this is an area we are going to explore as well, how we can move this on with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, because that is how we would formulate our liaison, and also with Interpol as well. They are areas we need to refocus on, and pursue and develop. So far we have gained liaison with European partners and colleagues but not the wider world.

Q67 Richard Burden: Even within Europe, are there any best practices that we can follow? The way you put it is that the Met has been going to seminars in Europe to explain how the Met is doing it.

Keith Niven: Yes.

Q68 Richard Burden: I am sure the Met is doing some good stuff, but one of the concerns we have flagged up is that we are still dealing with a situation over here where there has been zero prosecutions.

Keith Niven: Absolutely.

Q69 Richard Burden: If that is best practice, are we learning anything from anywhere else?

Keith Niven: We are. We spoke with the French. The French have success in this area; they have gained a number of prosecutions, and they raised two cases that were investigated. I think one involved the death of a child, and another one where a victim came forward. From those two stages they were able to expand out and gain the evidence and information in relation to a number of others. The French have been successful, albeit that the French legal system is very different. That was one of the discussions we had, and that is why we have taken that back to the Crown Prosecution Service, to say, "We need to look at other ways around prosecutions."

I go back to my thoughts around Jimmy Savile and that particular case, because the DPP came out very shortly after the report was published, a number of weeks ago and said that there was work ongoing at the moment looking at prosecutions with vulnerable victims. The victims of these crimes are absolutely vulnerable victims, and the same issues that they have about the confidence at coming forward, the courts system. Recent cases have exposed the difficulties in court cases of victims giving evidence. That is very much an area that I know the CPS are looking at, and we are working closely with them. It is those areas. We have looked at other countries, and we have looked at their successes. We have also looked at their laws that are different from the laws here, and that is a question that has now been put back to the DPP and to the CPS as well.

Q70 Richard Burden: Just one last question. You mentioned the ACPO lead; is that the Met?

Keith Niven: No, it is not. It is Carmel Napier.

Iqbal Singh: Carmel Napier is the Chief Constable of Gwent. She has the lead on FGM.

Q71 Chris White: In your last answer you mentioned about vulnerable victims coming forward and you mentioned about confidence. What practical steps could victims be given to support them coming forward, in your view?

Keith Niven: Certainly from our point of view, it is all about communication, in my view, in relation to this. It is a schools intervention. We have certainly worked with schools; we assisted in putting together a DVD and a video to get that communication out, but if you look at victims who are going to come forward and give evidence against their families, which in essence what will happen, there are a number of ways. Certainly through Social Services, so that is a safeguarding issue. There is a safeguarding issue regardless of whether people give evidence at all, and that safeguarding issue can certainly complement the protection and support that is provided to vulnerable victims.

For example, interviews would be video interviewed; the victims might not necessarily have to give live evidence in court. Their identities would be protected. All these other areas of protection are afforded to victims in other crimes as well, if they are going to give live evidence. However, it is twofold; it is about supporting those victims to go forward to a court process, if that is the outcome, and it is also safeguarding those victims if they are at risk of this type of crime.

Q72 Chris White: Do you consider it is difficult to prosecute for FGM?

Keith Niven: The situation is that we have referred cases to the Crown Prosecution Services and there have been difficulties, so yes, it is a difficult area to prosecute. It is difficult to get people to have the confidence to come forward. I hope that now, postSavile, we have demonstrated that people can come forward, they do have a voice, they will be listened to, and we will support them.

Q73 Chris White: There is a difference between somebody coming forward, and if somebody comes forward and then there is a prosecution.

Keith Niven: Yes. It is something that historically we, as part of investigations and prosecutions, we have looked at victims and put all the emphasis on what the victim can do. I go back to what I said originally: we want the victims to come forward, we want the information that the victims, we want that intelligence that we can then go and develop. I am looking for ways to find to prosecute individuals who commit these crimes, but is that possible without having to rely solely on the victim? I think it is. I think we do get that information, but it is about getting the victims to us, reassuring them that they can come and talk to us and we will not pressurise them. That has happened in many cases with other victims with other crimes; it is that pressure, and we will not put that pressure on them.

Q74 Chris White: Just following up from Mrs Latham’s question earlier about prosecution or child protection legislation was used in a particular case, and FGM was part of that. Was that just part of it, or were there so many other things that the child was taken into care or the intervention was -?

Keith Niven: In the case we mentioned, the child was already in care, and they came forward and disclosed to us around the crime that had taken place. That was a slightly different situation probably from the majority, but in that particular case we were able to go ahead and gain the evidence, and the evidence has been very clear. At this point it is at a very sensitive stage in the case, and I cannot go into detail around it, but the individual now has concerns about taking that to the next stage, and that is about reassurance and engagement with the Crown Prosecution Service, which we will engage in over the next couple of weeks.

Q75 Chris White: It is also about making prosecutions.

Keith Niven: It is about making prosecutions. The prosecution will send a very, very clear message to individuals. There could be a range of people that are subject to those prosecutions. It is not necessarily that we have to rely totally on that victim. That is where I am trying to drive this forward and to look for other options.

Iqbal Singh: It has to be borne in mind as well that the burden of proof for us is quite high, as well: it is beyond reasonable doubt. With the evidence we have had to gather, it is going to be for the prosecution to actually present the case and prove that the offence has occurred, rather than the onus being on the defendant. If you look at some of the European countries, their burden of proof is very, very much lower. France does not have its own legislation in terms of FGM; it uses its own normal legislation in terms of assault on children, abuse on children, whereas we in this country have our own FGM legislation, which has not been tested as yet, because we have not had a prosecution.

Q76 Fiona O'Donnell: I still, maybe naïvely, struggle with this, because if the evidence is there that a girl or a woman has undergone cutting, and as a child the parent has a responsibility, and they do not provide the evidence as to how that happened, they are perverting the course of justice. As I say, maybe that is naïve. It has been illegal in this country now for 30 years. Does anyone have any sense of how many girls or women we have kept safe or prevented this happening to?

Nimco Ali: Prevention is very weak. It is the fact that if parent do not want to do it, then they will not. It is about the specific family and why they decide not to carry out FGM. For me, things are changing within certain populations. If I speak about the community I come from, the Somali community, it is quite poignant in this context as well, because we need to look at the international links. In regions of Somalia, for example Somaliland, it is supported specifically by the diaspora. Any work and any money that is invested in looking at FGM or violence against women there has to be mutually matched here, and the work done. FGM will probably decrease to a certain extent within the diaspora, but only because there are more stringent forms of Islam or other forms of control on girls, controlling freedoms.

We have young women coming forward, saying, "Would I have FGM and have an education free from all these other things that would happen to me, or would I be safe from FGM but have all these restrictions placed upon me?’ I do not necessarily think the law has protected anybody. I know personally that the duty of protection has been placed upon young women within the families to protect their sisters, and that is what has happened. The fact that the FGM legislation has not been tested, it has not been tested because there has not been that confidence from survivors to say, "I need to go forward to the police. I need to go forward to Social Services," in order to prevent FGM. It is being done within the family. That kind of protection has happened.

Efua Dorkenoo: I wanted to say that research on FGM in this country is very poor, but a few qualitative studies that have been done show that amongst groups who practise the worst forms, infibulation, there is a shift towards clitoridectomy. That is the change we are seeing. The same qualitative research also indicates that FGM is still not strongly discussed within communities that practise it, and also there is a very strong attitude towards supporting it. I wanted to come back to the issue of the police. I think the police are the last line, really. The key issue that we have missed until quite recently is to understand that most of the FGM is done to kids under the age of 10.

Sometimes it is done to the older girl, and the trend that we are seeing is that it may be done to the older girl if families think they are changing, they are becoming too Westernised, they are not able to control them. Then they will enforce FGM on them at the age of, say, 15 years or 17 years in the Somali community, but traditionally they would do it between six and seven years old. What we are talking about is that most of the victims who are affected are under the age of 10, and looking at trends even in Africa, parents are reducing the ages because the older ones may resist it as they get more information about it.

What is happening in this country, and where the gaps may be, is that we have not put a proper system in place to track and work with these families. I would totally agree that FGM in this country is primarily a safeguarding issue, and because the children do not have a voice, it needs a holistic, comprehensive approach. Government and the institutions on one hand will need to put certain key things in place, and then there is also the other bit about addressing social norms, and women’s organisations and women’s rights organisations challenging it, to balance it. The kids have definitely now come out. The main development is they have come out to say that Government should not throw them back to the community.

If you look at the policy, we do accept it is violence against women, it is a safeguarding issue, but then the Government throws the onus on women’s rights organisations to deal with it in the community. Even to the extent that sometimes when the issues come to the attention of health professionals or teachers, they eject it to civil society organisations to deal with it. What I am trying to say is that we have a lot of guidelines, but we are missing a system in place, and there are different Departments who have responsibilities. If it is safeguarding, it is crosscutting across health, social care, teachers. If FGM happens to girls mainly in primary school stage, what are we going to do about that? When the children are older, they are past that stage. What is missing is this mechanism; if we say multiagency working, the joinedup working is not working. It is not. It is not.

Q77 Fiona O'Donnell: We know that often when we fail children and do not keep them safe, it is because Health does not talk to Education and social work. Every organisation in this country that deals with children should have a child protection policy in place, so they have a duty of care. Nimco mentioned earlier that she thought we were too culturally sensitive and that that is preventing us from getting to grips. Efua, you have been talking about having systems in place. What would those systems be? If we know that in a certain diaspora there is a high prevalence, should those children be subject to medical examination to establish whether or not, and for parents to be aware that was going to happen? I also wondered in terms of the work the police are doing, are you engaging with faith and community leaders to challenge this practice, and are they cooperating and working with you? That is a lot of questions.

Keith Niven: Yes – sorry.

Nimco Ali: I think it is about empowerment and support of children, and allowing them to be individuals of the state they are present in. That is what the EU has done, and that is what Holland and France and other countries have done. That is why they have had prosecutions. What is really interesting is that within the early 2000s, when Holland embedded a lot of this legislation around FGM, they knew that they had a part of the population that was committing those activities and they said, "This is illegal." They just brought it into other forms of child abuse. Those populations came to the UK and subsequently several hundred of those girls have undergone FGM, because now they were living in the UK.

It is about us understanding FGM as a form of violence and child abuse, and dealing with it as we would anything else. For me, when journalists and people ask me, "If I know somebody is going to undergo FGM, how do I contact you?" That is the issue. If you know a child that is at risk of FGM, call the police; do not call me. It is about that whole understanding and acceptance that FGM is not a cultural act, it is a form of violence and control. We also have to be careful within the tones and in the conversation we have, because a lot of the time we are talking to perpetrators, and communicating their words back to ourselves and also to the children.

Children will not come forward; they will not trust the police if they see you standing side by side with the men and the women within the community who are perpetrating these crimes. For example, we have conversations that are happening in certain parts of the country where people are saying there is a move from a certain form of FGM to another. That has come from community members who have benefited from FGM. If you go back to the home countries of these children’s parents, for example in Somalia, where we think that Type 1 FGM is now common, there has been research done that when cutters were spoken to and asked, "What does Type 1 look like?" Type 1 was closer to what Type 3 is in the definition of the World Health Organisation.

We have these young children coming back, parents who are the perpetrators saying, "Oh, I did nothing but just the mere prick," and us accepting that. I think that is totally unacceptable, and we cannot be having these conversations with the parents negotiating about the safety and the future of these children. We need to say, "It is about the protection of the child. We can have a conversation about your culture and whatever you believe in, but it is about the protection of the child." For too long we have been having these conversations with the community members, and also pushing the children into an identity that they have not chosen for themselves. The last point -

Q78 Fiona O'Donnell: Sorry, we are short of time and I want to make sure I get the answer from the police in terms of -

Keith Niven: Certainly. Where we talked about investigations being conducted by my team of investigators, the partnership is around the partnership team. I have a list here of the partners that we have liaised with. There are 12 medical partners – they are hospitals and clinics – eight national charities, five local charities and 15 local authority Local Safeguarding Children Boards. There is that intervention and those communications are taking place.

Q79 Fiona O'Donnell: And with faith leaders as well?

Iqbal Singh: Faith leaders is something we are going to start work on, because that is where we find that we can engage in that element there. That is where we will try to percolate some of the messages out.

Q80 Fiona O'Donnell: Why has that not happened before? I know it is probably quite difficult for you to say, but is it about political will? Are people worried about cultural sensitivities?

Iqbal Singh: It is probably that and many more. It is very, very difficult to try to engage with some of these hardtoreach communities. What we want to do is build up confidence and be able to have those conversations, but that is a bit of work that needs to be done, and that is an element that we have identified that we are doing work around.

Keith Niven: I think as well it is identifying the right people, the people who actually do not agree with this. That is some of the difficulties, and when you do some research around it – we have found it with other communities as well – it is difficult, but that is the challenge and that is what we have to do. We have to identify the people who can speak to communities and be respected by communities so that their word is listened to, and they can work with us and other organisations. That work is certainly ongoing, and we are certainly refocusing on that, as DCI Singh has said, to find those individuals.

The starting point, for me, is the victims. The starting point is the victims and the charities that support those victims. I think there has been an awful lot of fear around engaging with the police, for a variety of reasons. Those can be people’s own experiences in their own countries, or it can be experiences in the UK. Once we gain that trust and confidence, then we can start to move this forward. In relation to individuals and perceived fear, we have arrested numerous people in relation to this and we are very positive around this policy. Even this weekend, where information was gained that somebody was thinking about taking their child for FGM, they were arrested, brought into custody, and they were interviewed about that.

We do not stand back from that, and when we get information, we take action in relation to it. Education is a much wider issue, but it is absolutely right what is said. Children in primary school are the children who are at risk. It is for Education and Health, together with the police, to make sure that that information is out there.

Q81 Fiona O'Donnell: I am so conscious of the time, but very quickly, I asked about having medical examinations of children to establish whether or not it has taken place. Is that going too far?

Efua Dorkenoo: The key issue is early intervention and prevention, and the starting point is -

Q82 Fiona O'Donnell: And detecting and prosecuting.

Efua Dorkenoo: Yes. Maternity. They are delivering the women who have FGM. No information is passed on. They may have a daughter, and it is six years down the line that FGM happens to that daughter. Therefore, that information of the child being at risk should be passed on to the health visitor, who spends about five years, or the GP, so that they can engage in conversation. There is a lot of resistance to physically checking the girls. In France, under the age of six, as part of the children’s development checks on how they are growing and everything, all children are inspected genitally.

In this country it is not done, and there are a lot of discussions around whether it would be profiling if you focus just on the girls. I think what we need is soft monitoring. If the information that this child is at risk of FGM is passed on to the health visitor, so that it goes to the children’s red book, the health visitor continues with the information messages, and always keeping an eye on that child. Parents then become aware that the State is serious, so they are really petrified of doing something about it. Right now, in the community, the parents and community members say, "Britain does not have the guts to punish anybody."

It also has to be mandatory that health professionals report if they do come across it. At the moment it is not. The DPP has actually set up a working group to look at the barriers to prosecution, and one of the key issues is to do with reporting: until health professionals report, the police will not get the information.

Q83 Pauline Latham: That is what I was going to ask a question about. If the Department of Health mandated health workers and midwives to report it, would that become a barrier, because the vulnerable women would not then be allowed to go and see those people? Would it cause more of a problem than it would solve?

Efua Dorkenoo: I spoke with the Royal College of Midwives, and they do not think it will be a barrier. Very soon we will have young women who were born within the period of the law, where the extraterritoriality came in, delivering, for example. Should midwives who come across the woman report it for followup?

Nimco Ali: Just like how domestic abuse was put on the radar of the midwives and they had to report that and follow that up, it is similar to that in terms of the violence against women framework.

Keith Niven: It is part of safeguarding, because if you do have those women then their children could potentially be at risk. It is that information that then would go into the system, and action could be taken. If that information is not coming forward, that is when there is a vulnerability here, a very strong vulnerability.

Q84 Chair: The point was made to us, I think, in evidence that in France, the whole approach to immigration, of course, is that once you become a citizen you are not an immigrant, you are a French citizen, and you conform, whereas we are very much on our multicultural society approach. It suggests that we tiptoe around these things. I think what you are saying is that we should not be quite so tippytoes about it.

Nimco Ali: I think there is a term of assimilation that needs to be required, and also acceptance of young people that are born in this country, and rather than us othering them and identifying them as a culture that they have not necessarily chosen or belong to.

Q85 Chair: That is a clear distinction.

Nimco Ali: One of the questions I was asked was that internationally there is a large number of young diaspora communities that are being taken back because they are believed to be too westernised. We need to be aware that a lot of our citizens are now living in the Horn of Africa. How do we protect those? There is no avenue for those young women to come forward, whether they are being forced into marriage, or whether they will specifically be undergoing FGM, and there are no routes for that.

The UK Government talks about eradicating FGM as though it were this thing that will be vaccinated against, but we need to understand that unless we deal with the root causes of violence against women and the inequality of women within those populations, we will not be able to do that. We have a conference here in May about the Somali community, and there has been a commitment to the diaspora, but we need to understand that women are suffering and the young women in this country are suffering.

Chair: You have made a good point. I do not know if we have the statistical information on the number of British citizens who have been returned, effectively, but that is important.

Q86 Jeremy Lefroy: Good morning. Written evidence from the NGO FORWARD highlights the lack of any defined commitments between the Foreign Office, the Home Office and the UK Border Agency regarding FGM as especially concerning. To your knowledge, is the Home Office taking any steps to track at risk girls? Do they make overseas visits? You mentioned one earlier, but do they make them to see whether it is taking place? That is addressed to -

Keith Niven: I cannot answer on behalf of the Home Office. This has come from the Home Office, which is a statement opposing female genital mutilation, which is a booklet we have, so there is some work going forward with that. However, I am not aware of the Home Office specifically making visits. I do not know, but it has not been something that has been brought back to the attention of the police, but that work may be ongoing with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office. I am unable to clarify.

Efua Dorkenoo: The Home Office, last year, went over to Ethiopia and had an education meeting for all the officers in Africa around genital mutilation, and they have come out with this statement, which helps young people if they are old enough to take it with them when they go abroad. What might be much more concrete to be done would be to make sure that when people get visas to come here, they are given some tangible information that it is illegal in this country, and these are the ramifications around it. Whatever we discuss comes back to the fact that in this country we have a series of activities here and there. Apart from the joinedup situation and the lack of joinedup work, we do not have a comprehensive strategy with a national action plan, each Department group will agree that this is what needs to be done, and monitor it.

I wanted to add that there are three reviews coming up, which may provide the UK the opportunity to come out with this comprehensive plan to address all the different barriers. One review is to do with the DPP Taskforce looking at the barriers to prosecution. A second is a group of funding bodies – Rosa Fund, Esmee Fairbairn, and the Trust for London – who have been supporting grassroots groups. At the moment it is more than 20 groups around the country, working with communities. They are doing a major review of where the community action is. That is also coming up and it will be ready in the summer.

Finally, the Home Office had a multiagency guideline, which it sends to professionals. It is not statutory. It ought to be statutory, but they are doing a review of how far frontline professionals are actually engaging with the issue. That review should be out very soon, so by the summer, if we get all these reviews, I think under the auspices of the Home Office we should all sit down, look at where we are with the issue, the key things that Health need to step up and deal with, or Education. I have been to a lot of these policy meetings, and Education are never there, but FGM is mainly safeguarding.

We need to bring all the different Departments together and then look at the information we have on the work, and agree on a comprehensive strategy and an action plan that we can follow, with the indicators to see how things have been actually addressed on the ground level. That is what I think needs to be done.

Q87 Chair: Thank you very much. I think you have got the flavour of the questions, really. We cannot as a country say that this is a practice around the world that we wish to take a lead in eliminating if we are not vigorously addressing it at home, and indeed British citizens abroad who are at risk. You have helped us focus our attention on that. Superintendent Niven, certainly in your evidence you have made it clear that you are focused on it, but in terms of the ordinary, if I may say it, police officer going about his duty, you would only have to go back a generation for the comment against domestic violence, where the general thing was, "Oh, it is just a domestic."

We now do not accept that. I suppose the point I am making is that we need to take the same view about this, that ordinary police officers, not specialists, need to be aware that this is a practice – particularly in the communities where the girls are at risk – and that they need to be vigorous. Perhaps that is where you will get the prosecutions, because if they are switched on, they may be more focused on getting the evidence. Women complain generally that we do not get enough prosecutions for rape, that domestic violence is not taken seriously enough, and obviously an issue like this is, "Oh it is a cultural issue we should not interfere with," and yet they all come together.

A point that was made to me in terms of general awareness was that in societies where violence against women is prevalent – and it exists in all societies, but it is worse in more – the more prevalent it is, the more prone those societies are to conflict and violence in general. This is just not an issue about standing up for the rights of women, who by definition are not a minority. They are the majority. It is about creating a functioning society, and it is a job for men as well as for women. This Committee is dominated by men -

Fiona O'Donnell: In numbers.

Chair: - but I am glad to say we have three very effective women on the Committee. It is important to make the point that this is one that women and men need to address together. Again, in the communities you are talking about it seems to me that first of all the women who are sending their daughters are effectively doing it to please the men. They have to also be part of the process, and the men also have to be educated to say, "This is not the way to treat women." It is a very big task across all kinds of different levels.

Can I say thank you for your evidence? Can I also say, because obviously you are working on this, if there is anything that you feel you want to feed in on reflection, or additional information or additional comment or statistics, anything you feel will help us, we would appreciate it. Chloë obviously is working for us on the Report. You have given us an awful lot of insight, but if you can think of more – and I am sure if Chloë has any more questions she might come back to you. On behalf of the Committee, I am sorry we have diminished in number, but that is what happens as the hearings go on. We genuinely appreciate your coming in, and I hope you appreciate it is really important to get an input from the police and the opportunity to have both of you together – in fact you work together anyway – is still helpful.

Keith Niven: This is child abuse. That is what it is. That is exactly what it is.

Q88 Chair: It is, and it may indeed be easier to prosecute as that than under a specific law on FGM.

Keith Niven: Yes, absolutely.

Q89 Chair: The important thing is, we need prosecutions in order to help the educational process that this is wrong, it should not be happening.

Efua Dorkenoo: Yes.

Keith Niven: Yes.

Chair: I hope that the time will not be too long when you have success. Thank you very much indeed.

Prepared 13th February 2013