Equality Now demands that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley act now to stop Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK

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24 April 2012
Contact: Efua Dorkenoo, Advocacy Director – FGM Programme
(44) (0)20-7304 6902

Letter follows recent Sunday Times article on health professionals offering to perform harmful illegal practice

London, England - Gender equality advocates from Equality Now yesterday wrote to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley reminding him of his legal duty to have due regard to the need to remove disadvantages suffered by women and girls at risk of FGM and offering suggestions as to how his department can help fight FGM.

FGM is an abhorrent practice which causes serious physical and psychological damage to girls and women.  Independent studies suggest that FGM is being performed on tens of thousands of girls in the UK today.  On Sunday, The Sunday Times reported that health professionals including a dentist and a doctor had been caught on camera offering to perform the procedure.

Though FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, no one has ever been prosecuted under its FGM Acts (1985, 2003) even though reporting on FGM has actually increased.1  A 2001 study estimated that 66,000 African women residing in England and Wales had undergone female genital mutilation and 23,000 girls in African communities under the age of 15 were at risk of FGM.2  The World Health Organisation has said that FGM “reflects a deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.”

Yet the Department of Health has no strategy for tackling FGM.

Efua Dorkenoo OBE, of Equality Now, states, “This case illustrates the urgent need for the government to fulfill its obligation to protect all children.  The Health Department is uniquely positioned to take early preventative measures to stop this human rights violation against girls and women, which has been occurring unchecked for decades despite the law.  Optional guidelines are not enough when a child’s health and well-being are in danger.”

1Sumanta Roy et al . “The missing Link – A joined up approach to addressing Harmful Practices in London, Executive  Summary”, GLA, September 2011.
2Efua Dorkenoo, Linda Morison and Alison Macfarlane. “A Statistical Study to Estimate the Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in England and Wales”, FORWARD, 2007.

April 24, 2012 - 10:15