Serious Crime Bill [HL]

Written evidence submitted by LGA and Dexter Dias QC (SC 11)

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): An offence of encouragement of FGM

1. Summary

This submission focuses on the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) provisions in Part 5 of the Serious Crime Bill. The Local Government Association (LGA) has been campaigning for measures which would disrupt and prevent people from encouraging FGM, thereby preventing the perpetuation of this harmful social practice.

Dexter Dias QC, a human rights barrister who has chaired reports by the Bar Human Rights Committee on FGM both to the UK Parliament and the United Nations, has been advising the LGA on the drafting of an amendment which would create an offence of encouragement of FGM and the legal arguments for a change in the law of this kind. His legal opinion and the evidence he has gathered from survivors and frontline workers in affected communities demonstrate the need for such an offence.

2. LGA view

Councils have a key role to play when it comes to safeguarding children and protecting them from harm. The LGA is helping councils to raise awareness [1] of FGM in their communities and supporting councils and councillors to tackle FGM. [2]

According to a study commissioned by Equality Now and City University, an estimated 197,000 women and girls in England and Wales are affected by FGM. From 1 September 2014, the NHS has been collecting monthly data on the prevalence of FGM. According to their most recent report in October 2014, 455 female patients treated at acute NHS hospital trusts in England which provided data were newly identified as having undergone FGM. The data also showed that 1,468 female patients who had undergone FGM were being treated at the end of October 2014. The figures for September 2014 were 467 newly identified cases and 1279 active cases.

The Government has set out its ambition of eliminating FGM within a generation. Achieving this requires changing the culture in communities that have traditionally practised FGM. The LGA has identified certain barriers to change which will not be overcome without legislation. While we very much support the valuable practical measures introduced in the Lords, which will make it easier to bring prosecutions and prevent girls being taken abroad for FGM, the practice will only be eliminated if the source of the problem is directly confronted.

The LGA has heard from the British Arab Federation, the Association of British Muslims (see Annex A) and councils that their efforts to change culture are encountering social pressure and resistance. Their efforts are hampered by people who argue that there are religious or cultural justifications for carrying out FGM or point to faith or community leaders in other countries who advocate it. The LGA has seen evidence that people in the UK are making these arguments.

The same faith or community leaders place parents under huge social pressure to perform FGM on their children, with some saying it is the parents’ ‘duty’ or justifying it with reference to religious texts. Additional pressure comes from the threat of exclusion from the community if parents do not comply. We have heard from survivors and parents asking for those who promote FGM to be stopped.

The LGA has been campaigning for measures which would disrupt and prevent people from encouraging FGM, thereby preventing the perpetuation of it at source. In the Lords, the LGA pursued an amendment to Bill which would create a specific offence of encouraging FGM and will be continuing to campaign for this in the Commons.

3. Suggested Amendment: An offence of encouragement of female genital mutilation

The LGA suggests the following amendment, as drafted by Dexter Dias QC, be inserted in the Bill:

After Clause 66, insert the following Clause –

"Offence of encouragement of female genital mutilation"

(1) The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 is amended as follows:

(2) After section 2 (offence of assisting a girl to mutilate her own genitalia) insert –

"2A Offence of encouragement of female genital mutilation

(a) A person is guilty of an offence of encouragement of female genital mutilation if he makes a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public to whom it is published as a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to them to mutilate the genitalia of a girl.

(b) A person commits an offence if-

(i) He publishes a statement to which this section applies or causes another to publish such a statement; and

(ii) At the time he publishes it or causes it to be published, he-

a) Intends members of the public to be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to mutilate the genitalia of a girl; or

b) Is reckless as to whether members of the public will be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to mutilate the genitalia of a girl.

4. Opinion of Dexter Dias QC

Encouragement of Female Genital Mutilation

Purpose of amendment

The purpose of this amendment is to criminalise the encouragement of FGM . The proposal rests on three connected planks:

1. I t adds a vital tool to the existing legal framework in the UK’s fight against genital mutilation by criminalising one of the social behaviours that contributes to the perpetuation of this crime: the preaching and proselytising of FGM.

2. I t provides an effective legal intervention because it is modelled on what is known to work: comparable powers used to combat the dissemination of encouragement to commit acts of terrorism.

3. By directly confronting one of the roots of the problem – preaching and propaganda that encourages parents to mutilate their children – it proactively enhances the protection of young women and girls. It does this by disrupting harmful social pra ctices at source – ‘upstream.’ In this way, it also acts to strengthen the UK’s compliance with its international law obligations to protect women and girls from discrimination, gender-based violence and genital mutilation.

Social need

To understand the need for the legislation, we need to understand the mechanism that drives mutilation. The actual act of mutilation sits at the end of a long series of social processes, many of them little understood by mainstream British society.

The notion that parents who send their daughters to be ‘cut’ are barbaric or monstrous or malicious dangerously misunderstands and misinterprets the social reality. Parents in these tightly knit, socially isolated communities are faced with difficult – sometimes almost impossible – choices. Mutilating a child comes at a cost. Not mutilating a child also does. We cannot shy away from this complex truth.

But we can make a difference. We can make a difference by legislating to ease the awful social pressure parents are placed under by their community. We can do this by attacking one of the principal sources of social pressure. In traditional societies, which are intensely hierarchically structured, elders and preac hers exert enormous influence. This is precisely why the United Nations has sought to co-opt such community leaders in the Global South in its fight to eradicate FGM.

We can also contribute to this. Some community leaders continue to proselytise about the supp osed ‘duty’ to ‘cut’ children. The mutilation is justified in various ways: whether as a doctrinal duty prescribed by the Koran or authoritative Haddith (erroneously), by an appeal to tradition and social conformity or even by the need – as documented in a UN Population Fund film – to ‘cut out the devil.’ It all comes to the same thing: pressure to mutilate children. We must stop this.

If you speak to researchers who work with practising communities around the world , they will tell you two things. Firstly, survivors and parents ask whether we can help stop leaders from demonising and stigmatising those who stand up and speak out against FGM. Secondly, they ask if we can stop those who constantly promote FGM. So if we can’t stop such people saying opposing FGM is ‘bad’, we can at least criminalise their preaching that FGM is ‘good.’

The further advantage of this approach is that it helps direct our efforts where they should properly lie: not on the insensitive prosecution of parents but on prevention. Parliament was clearly warned about the counter-productive nature of an overly punitive approach to parents by the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) in its report to the Parliamentary Inquiry.

It is a report that has been much quoted (and commended). Indeed, the BHRC’s proposals for a range of civil powers are also working their way through the legislative process.

As Dexter Dias QC, Chair of the BHRC’s FGM group, has said on many occasions: we can’t prosecute FGM into extinction by prosecuting parents. What we need to do is to disrupt one of the prime sources of perpetuation. We can accomplish all this.

What works

This amendment is modelled on similar legal provisions directed at criminalising the encouragement of acts of terrorism. Clearly, this is not to equate terrorism and FGM. Nor is it to suggest that the population groups involved in these offences are the same or similar. But the mechanism of promoting and encouraging these crimes is similar: the influence of powerful, authoritative figures in the community. The law cannot remain silent while such people encourage child mutilation .

Criminal offences have two parts. The first is the ‘act’ being criminalised. This amendment – as in Encouragement of Terrorism – criminalises the ‘publication of statements.’ The virtue of this formulation is that it encompasses both oral and written pronouncements. The amendment specifies statements directed at ‘members of the public.’ This is because a single lecture or public talk or written publication might encourage one person or several people to mutilate. The provision captures both.

The second part of a criminal offence specifies the necessary mental state. Here – as in encouragement of terrorism – the offence can be committed either by (a) intending that prohibited act (mutilating girls) occurs or (b) by being reckless about whether it happens. Recklessness is of course a well-known and much used concept in criminal law. Here what it addresses is the situation where people take unjustifiable and irresponsible risks that create harm to vulnerable children.

International law

In a vibrant democracy such as ours, there is always a balance to strike between free speech and the protection of the vulnerable. Our historic and venerable tradition recognises that free speech is not an unfettered right. International law recognises the same principle.

Thus we must be perfectly clear and not shy away from what we are proposing. We are suggesting that it will become a criminal offence to encourage others to genitally mutilate women and girls either with the intention that this consequence will follow or when being criminally reckless about it. But can we justify this curtailing of free speech – for that is what it is?

We have by virtue of our international law and treaty obligations duties to protect women and girls. I emphasise that they are positive legal duties to be proactive in protecting females within our jurisdiction.

A s long ago as 1979, by virtue of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) , the UK committed itself to eliminate discrimination against women. FGM unambiguously constitutes one of the most abhorrent forms of discrimination against young women and girls. Further, by dint of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (CRC) , the UK has positive obligations in international law to ensure that children are not subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (art. 37). FGM constitutes an irreparable violation of the child’s bodily integrity and physical and psychological health. FGM is also a violation of the UN Convention against Torture 1984 (CAT), which has been ratified by the UK.

As such the UK has a positive obligation to take legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture within its jurisdiction (art. 2). Thus this amendment not only acts to disrupt harmful patterns of propaganda and proselytising, it enhances our compliance with international law.

It is pr oportionate for three reasons. Firstly, b ecause it is not indiscriminate: rather it is targeted and tightly limited to a particular social vice that irreversibly damages some of the most vulnerable young women and girls in our nation. Secondly, b ecause what we are doing is criminalising the encouragement and glorification of criminal acts in the main directed against children who cannot consent and cannot protect themselves. Thirdly, i t is proportionate because every child and young women within our shores has a right under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to bodily integrity.

The UK must fearlessly implement the international law principle that it is legitimate, necessary and desirable for a state to intervene to modify social and cultural patterns of conduct that result in discrimination against women. This approach is fully authorised by article 5 of CEDAW.

FGM is a paradigmatic example where entrenched traditional practices that seriously disadvantage and damage women should be modified by a range of interventions , including criminal laws such as this amendment proposes.

Conclusion

Ultimately we must unambiguously recognise that we have both a right and a du ty to protect women and girls. Therefore this amendment is based on the living reality of how Female Genital Mutilation is perpetuated; it is modelled on legal powers that are known to work; and it strengthens the UK’s compliance with international law. No one has a right to encourage crime , which is what the genital mutilation of women and girls is.

5. Evidence for the offence gathered by Dexter Dias QC

For the purposes of providing evidence to Parliament, testimony was sought from those who have undergone FGM, or are at risk of FGM, or who are fighting it. The contributors include some of the most prominent campaigners against FGM in the UK and those most actively involved on the frontline. They have direct personal experience of what FGM is actually like in the UK today. They provide a snapshot of the living reality of FGM. [1]

There are three key messages:

1. Key Message 1: There is still very significant support amongst affected communities in Britain for ‘sunna’, that is, Type 1 and Type 2 FGM.

2. Key Message 2: The process by which FGM actually occurs is complex, but a significant contributing factor is the encouragement of FGM by elders or prominent members of the community, particularly in small gatherings and informal settings ‘behind the scenes.’

3. Key Message 3: There is unanimous support among those interviewed for a distinct offence making the encouragement of Female Genital Mutilation unlawful. It would help protect at-risk girls and young women.

The evidence from the contributors is set out in the Annex. The following is a short Analysis of the evidence provided and how the proposed offence is not only consistent with the UK’s international law obligations but strengthens our compliance.

Analysis

International law

In November 2014 - and for the first time - two UN human rights committees joined forces to issue a comprehensive interpretation of the obligations of States to prevent and eliminate harmful practices inflicted on women and girls. [2] The Committee on the Rights of the Child said, ‘It is time to examine harmful practices from a human rights perspective. Children have a right to be protected from practices that have absolutely no health or medical benefits but which can have long-term negative effects on their physical or mental well-being.’

This is precisely the critique that the Bar Human Rights Council advanced to Parliament. Thus two eminent international committees have explicitly articulated a similar stance, because adopting such a stance has direct implications for this amendment.

As the UN joint statement emphasises: ‘Prevention is vital, and that requires the design of measures aimed at changing existing social norms and patriarchal cultures’ (emphasis provided). This is a positive duty in international law.

FGM is plainly a problem for the UK and in the United Kingdom. As the UN states, ‘Harmful practices like FGM have become increasingly common in some countries where they did not used to exist, mainly as a result of migration.’ The FGM survivors who have been consulted for this briefing note say the same thing. Two things are notable (1) how there is greater emphasis on ‘sunna’, Type 1 and Type 2 FGM; (2) the different forms of communal encouragement that play a part in the decision to mutilate. Thus this legislative intervention responds to an evidenced and empirical social need.

How does it sit with Article 10 and freedom of speech? How do we as a nation strike a balance?

Competing rights

Free speech is critical to a democracy. But in international law it is not an unqualified right – particularly where it collides with other kinds of freedoms.

There is a freedom not to be genitally mutilated. Young women and girls have a right to enjoy bodily integrity. International law also recognises these rights.

Therefore one must ask what kind of ‘speech’ is claimed to be protected? It is not the expression of an ‘offensive opinion’ but the right to encourage the commission of a gender-based crime.

It is for Parliament to decide which of these competing rights to prioritise: the right to encourage the commission of a criminal offence (which is what FGM has been for 29 years in the UK – and is in 24 out of the 29 Global South countries in which it is concentrated) or the right for young women and girls to enjoy bodily integrity.

Criminalising such encouragements is proportionate because (a) it is not criminalising the expression of a preference; but (b) rather focuses on rendering unlawful the making of statements where the speaker intends that they incite others to mutilate women and girls or is reckless (to a criminal standard) whether they do.

Where the social process of perpetuation involves encouragement by those in authority and influence in a community, disrupting that encouragement to mutilation is fully justified by international law. It constitutes a proportionate measure to ‘change an existing social norm.’

We should not forget that in December 2012 the General Assembly of the United Nations resolved ‘to take all necessary steps’ to end FGM – a resolution introduced by the 50-strong African Group of nations. Disrupting and deterring the encouragement of child mutilation is a necessary step. But more than that, knowing what we now know about (a) how the pressures producing mutilation operate; (b) the existence of those pressures in the UK, it is morally indefensible not to intervene.

We are beginning to understand better the mechanisms that produce and reproduce this form of gender-based violence. We are finally grasping how these crimes happen. We have an opportunity with this amendment to challenge and change some of the most crucial perpetuating pressures.

Objectively viewed, the situation is simple: mutilating young women and girls is a criminal offence; encouraging their mutilation should be one also.

January 2015

ANNEX B

Table of contributors

Contributor

Name

Organisation / Status

1.

‘Asma’ [1]

FGM survivor

2.

Afrah Qassim

Chair of Saver, (Charity dedicated to tackling Domestic Abuse within BAMER Communities)

3.

‘Lucee’

FGM survivor

Works to combat FGM in the UK

4.

‘Sara’

Young woman from practising community in north of England.

5.

Hekate Papadaki

Rosa Fund: Grants and Development Manager, managing the Tackling FGM Initiative.

6.

Naana Otoo-Oyotey

Executive Director, FORWARD UK

7.

Muna Hassan

Integrate Bristol

8.

Mrs Dorcas O. Akeju, OBE

Retired FGM midwife/campaigner

Chair of Liverpool FGM and multi-cultural women's advisory group

Member of FGM national clinical group

9.

Leyla Hussein

FGM survivor

Co-founder, Daughters of Eve and the Dahlia Project

10.

Amina Elmi

Granby Somali Women’s Group

11.

Charlotte Proudman

Researcher on FGM, Cambridge University


Contributor 1: Asma

Asma is a survivor of FGM. I asked her a simple question. It was this: should the UK Parliament create a law making the encouragement of FGM illegal?

"Dear Honoured Members,

It’s incredible to me that people care what happens to me and my sisters. Before no one ever did. In my country then and in yours (ours) now girls are cut because parents have pressure put on them. Our elders tell them to cut their daughters. It happens in small groups when we come together and when we worship here in Britain. They say you must cut. And people agree. You cannot marry among us if you don’t cut. You are not clean if you don’t cut. And people agree. The pressure is like water from a tap. Can you turn the tap off? I don’t know. But I hope you try. It will help girls in danger. Even knowing you are trying to turn off the tap helps girls in danger. Thank you.

Asma"

Contributor 2: Afrah Qassim

Chair of Saver

(Charity dedicated to tackling Domestic Abuse within BAMER Communities)

· We must highlight that it is a crime to encourage FGM.  Those who practice and encourage it still do not understand the seriousness of the law.  To have it made clear in law that encouragement of FGM is unlawful would be useful so people cannot hide behind any confusion in the law.  We have heard of cases where parents are in two minds about FGM but they speak to elders in the community or at faith groups/communities who believe in FGM and encourage it.  We need people in authority in the community to understand that the UK law challenges the encouragement of FGM and has made it unlawful.

· The law is part of protection and needs to be there to inform the practicing communities that this not acceptable within this country, but the point is not putting people in prison, but to protect and safeguard children and women from this cruel practice.

· Having the law will support and "strengthen" parents/families, especially when one side of the family/parents believe in the practice and the other is against it. We have become aware of cases where one parent wanted FGM on the child, but the other parents doesn’t and sometime both parents don’t want to their daughter to undergo FGM, but are pressured by the extended family.

· From my work in the community and with professionals, I have come across people openly thinking that type 1 and 2 is not as bad and don’t cause much harm, the only type they have more concern about is type 3. I found this unbelievable, especially with professionals. All types are harmful abuse and against the child’s human rights.

Contributor 3: Lucee

Lucee is survivor of FGM. Her family is from West Africa and now is resident in the UK.

The community leaders play an important role in life of ordinary people from birth, through childhood and adulthood to death. No one wants to grow up outside that circle – you join or become ostracised. People have social intelligence: they understand these things.  There are pressures from the community. They don’t want to be excluded. It is not just religious leaders who influence people to do FGM, but community leaders. For many people in migrant communities from the Global South, tradition is all they live for.  The law should make it clear that it is unlawful for anyone to encourage FGM. 

Contributor 4: Sara

Sara is young woman in her late teens from the north of England. Her family hails from a practising community.

Parents who cut their daughters, they aren’t these terrible people everyone thinks. Most time, they don’t know what to do. Do this or that. Follow tradition or not hurt our little girl. What makes them do it? What sends them over the edge? People. People telling them to. You call it encouragement, I call it people telling them you must follow our tradition. Or else. Do you understand the or else? It’s the or else that sends them over. I suppose it is encouragement. Cut your daughter or else all these bad things happen.

I then asked her directly whether the law should make encouraging the mutilation of young women and girls unlawful. Sara said:

You tell me why you shouldn’t. Parents don’t just do this in a cellar. They do it in a community. Where people tell them and tell them and tell them to do it. If you ask should it be okay for people to encourage sexually abusing these same children, what would you say? But you wouldn’t, because you don’t need to ask the question, do you?

Contributor 5: Hekate Papadaki

Grants and Development Manager at the Rosa Fund

Hekate manages the Tackling FGM Initiative, a £2.8 million investment in UK grassroots FGM prevention work and includes a network of 30-plus organisations including Forward, Integrate Bristol, Manor Gardens, Birmingham and Solihull Women's Aid and many others.

· We believe that expressing support for FGM in public venues (such as mosques, churches or community celebrations) should be banned, particularly when expressed by community and religious leaders.  

· In the experience of the Tackling FGM Initiative there is widespread acceptance for 'sunna' (Type 1 & Type 2) FGM amongst most members of FGM-affected communities outside the capital.

· In our experience, newly arrived communities, communities in areas outside of London and older community members express the greatest support for FGM. Older relatives both in the UK and overseas are often the ones exerting most of the pressure to perform FGM - mothers in law or grandmothers are usually the ones communicating that pressure onto parents. Men often expect their brides to be to be cut but are not the ones putting on the pressure; it is the role of female elders to ensure girls are marriageable.

· Support for FGM is also expressed openly in communities that are less integrated (newly arrived communities and those in dispersal areas with a majority white population).

· We have encountered religious leaders describing 'sunna' as religious credit. For example, these views have been expressed by religious leaders in explicitly anti-FGM events in the context of 'sunna is not compulsory but could be a good thing for women to do. However, it's illegal in this country so it shouldn't be done.’ The lack of expressed condemnation in the presence of anti-FGM campaigners and statutory professionals indicates the likelihood of support in more private community settings.

· The Tackling FGM Initiative has found that the views of older relatives are deeply entrenched and resistant to change. They regularly equate the end FGM movement to cultural imperialism or racism. Older community members are held in very high esteem, and we have regularly observed that in inter-generational workshops younger participants are not allowed to express their views or contradict those of older community members.

Contributor 6: Naana Otoo-Oyotey

Executive Director, FORWARD UK

Naana said this about making e ncouragement of FGM unlawful:

 

If someone has a position of power and uses that to influence and encourage FGM, then this should be made unlawful. Particularly when these people are using their authority and is done in public.  A community leader from Gambia attended our offices in London.  He was someone who advocated FGM. His children had been mutilated.  He said in Gambia.  But his view was that FGM was acceptable.  Such people do have influence in diaspora communities.  The law should make it clear that it is unlawful to encourage parents or anyone else to do FGM to young women and girls.  About three years ago there was a public meeting in Leicester where a religious leader spoke about FGM.  He stated that he believed ‘ suna ’ was acceptable.  There is debate about the precise definition of this term, and it could cover either Type 1 or Type 2 FGM, but it certainly means mutilation.  UK law should make it unlawful for someone like that to make public comments encouraging people to continue to practice FGM.

Contributor 7: Muna Hassan

Member, Integrate Bristol

· I’ve definitely come across the ‘sunna’ problem. 

· I feel a lot of community leaders and gatekeepers know what to say to politicians, and then when people go they say something different in the community.  I’ve come across people saying that Type 1 and Type 2 is acceptable.  They are likely to say sunna is fine. These kinds of views are more prevalent in the elder generation.

· The importance of this is that such people are likely to be influential and can sway people or parents who are unsure about whether to have their daughter undergo FGM. In such communities people are scared of social isolation.  They depend on the community for so much in their lives.  They fear finger-pointing if they take a stand or speak out about FGM. 

· So it should definitely happen that the law should make it clear that it is not okay to encourage anyone to perform any kind of FGM on young women and girls.  It should be made clear that this kind of encouragement is unlawful. I think that would help protect girls and young women who are at risk.  

Contributor 8: Mrs Dorcas O. Akeju, OBE

Retired FGM midwife/campaigner

Chair of Liverpool FGM and multi-cultural women's advisory group

Member of FGM national clinical group

· Some people are still sticking to tradition and say: it has to go on or our daughters will not be accepted.

· Even though I went to speak to this group (Somali women) in 1996 and now nearly 20 years later I was shocked how strongly the views were still held. Their attitude to Type 1 and Type 2 is: we do the sunna, not the big one, but the ‘small one.’ 

· Here in the UK I’ve spoken to women from different Nigerian tribes, a number of whom support FGM and regard it as their tradition. They say, ‘Why do these white people want us to stop? If it is their own tradition will they pass a law against it?’

· One tribe from Sierra Leone did not want me to interview them at all.

· You find that in the older generation it is more strongly entrenched.  They can’t see beyond their belief and tradition. 

· We now understand that FGM is being done more on babies and very young children as they would not know any difference.

· Even if we introduce civil protection orders, we must keep the criminal law.  And we should make it clear that encouraging the mutilation of girls is illegal because otherwise FGM is going to go on forever. 

Contributor 9: Leyla Hussein

FGM survivor

Co-founder, Daughters of Eve and the Dahlia Project

· You may well recall the controversy last year about a community leader from Bristol and the Metropolitan Police’s FGM Project Azure. It was a Somali television documentary about FGM in the UK. The Bristol community leader stated that although Type 3 was not allowed, Type 1 was permissible and it was our tradition and ‘we cannot leave it.’

· There is a big body of evidence from those working in the field with affected communities in the UK that many prominent communities leaders state that Type 1 is acceptable.

· In 2011 in London a female Islamic scholar stated in public that Type 1 was an acceptable practice. This was at an event on the UN Zero Tolerance Day.

· Around the same time and also in London, a male Islamic scholar publicly stated that all forms of FGM were not only unlawful but un-Islamic. He received a large amount of abuse and harassment from sections of the practising community.

· We must understand the nature of the migrant and diaspora communities. They are very self-contained and many people move in these circles from the neighbour, to corner shop to mosque to local community project leader. I’ve come across many NGOs that are supposed to be opposed to FGM and yet state that Type 1 is acceptable.

· I have also experience of people running child protection workshops who say if a parent tells them that they intend to mutilate their child they say they will not report them.

· Often when parents are torn between mutilating their child or not, they will go to the mosque and in mosques they are told it’s up to you whether you do Type 1 or Type 2, rather than challenging them that it is un-Islamic.

· If you go to Somali community websites that are contributed to by members of the community in the UK, you’ll see the kind of propaganda where people are encouraging that girls are ‘cut’ and people should keep to their traditions.

· To me there is no argument: someone encouraging any form of mutilation of children, that must be unlawful. Remember these are children. They do not have a voice. To the argument that ‘it is my right of freedom of speech, it’s my culture,’ my response is simple: FGM violates my basic human rights, so people who encourage that have no right to make that crime more likely to happen. Finally, I want to highlight the fact that we are talking about the proper protection of children. We all have the responsibility to protect any child at risk. We are talking about the ‘girl child.’ Globally the girl child is the most vulnerable human being. They must be our priority. That is – or must be – fundamentally what this country stands for. By neglecting these girls we go against what this country stands for.

Contributor 10: Amina Elmi

Granby Somali Women’s Group

· We have come across people advocating and encouraging FGM from all generations (young and old).  To a certain extent elders in the community have influence over families. Some people thinking about doing FGM are illiterate and can be influenced by what they are told by senior members of the community and are unable to verify facts.  So it is important to make it clear in law that encouraging FGM is unlawful, so people in authority (in the community) understand they are not allowed to encourage FGM.

· There is a two-fold process in relation to controversial issues like FGM for communities that are stigmatised and scrutinised in the media. They are likely to present views to outsiders in an acceptable manner. However, when speaking to those within the community, they will feel free to provide their true views on issues like FGM.

Contributor 11: Charlotte Proudman

Researcher, Cambridge University

Charlotte is researching FGM in the UK. Although her sources are confidential, she has direct evidence that people in FGM-affected communities are in public advancing the view that Type 1 FGM is ‘acceptable.’


[1]

[2] The Committees on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CEDAW convention is commonly referred to as the ‘international bill of rights for women.’

[1] Most of the names provided in the table are real. But a few contributors wish to remain anonymous for reasons of personal safety. We trust that is understandable. Their names appear in inverted commas in the table (but not thereafter).

[1]


[1] LGA FGM web resource: http://www.local.gov.uk/web/guest/community-safety/-/journal_content/56/10180/6510834/

[2] FGM: A Guide for Councillors, 2014: http://www.local.gov.uk/web/guest/publications/-/journal_content/56/10180/6601295/PUBLICATION

[2]

Prepared 22nd January 2015