Home Office Orals

First day back – Home Office orals (done) and Adjournment Debate after votes at 10pm (still to come).

Two questions came my way: one on wheel clamping and the other on what resources we are putting into enforcing the law against female genital mutilation (fmg).

The first on clamping – as in my blog posts really – just when would it happen and what about the clampers. Given how much I’ve written about this already – there was nothing new that came up.

On seeing the question on female genital mutilation and seeing that it was the same question that Ann Clwyd MP had asked a previous Labour minister some years earlier  – I could tell the supplementary would be about why there had been no prosecutions since her Bill became law in 2003 when she asked it this time. She has campaigned tirelessly on this issue – credit to her.

Whilst prosecutions aren’t the answer to stopping the hideous practice – and fmg will be part of the strategy being formed to end violence against women which will be published in Spring 2011 – I was interested myself in understanding why none had been brought,.

I have no doubt that if a case was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service it would be prosecuted – but none have been referred by the police. Obviously in researching the answers – it came to light that there was an awful lot of work going on. There have been many investigations started – but none have produced the evidence needed to take the case all the way to prosecution.

Why? It would seem a number of reasons inhibit the collections of evidence. Firstly – the victim is usually too young at the time of the act to remember anything and doesn’t necessarily even know that she has been changed. The families do not want to give evidence and the communities that practise this  won’t often help the police as they want to carry on their customs. Also families often say that the child was ‘done’ before coming to this country in a country where it is not illegal.

There was a news item recently about Egypt – where the practise was banned two years ago – but still nine out of ten young girls are mutilated. So here in this country the government is putting its resource into education and public awareness – as only a cultural change will ultimately bring about the necessary change.

The police in the form of Project Azure have made some progress and take the issue very seriously. For those women who are against the practise but feel too weak or unable to sustain the hostility from their families or community – the police help them sign a pledge not to mutilate the daughters and then they use the written and signed document to show their families that the practise is against the law.

At Heathrow Terminal 4 (which fly to those countries where parents take their daughters at the beginning of the summer holidays to be ‘done’ and come back at end of holidays when they are healed) the police have been approaching likely families and explaining the law to them – not just about the law if the practise is carried out here – but also that it is illegal to take them to a country elsewhere to have it done.

Each year since 2003 when the law was introduced the number of investigations by the police have increased – so the trend is in the right direction  – but there is clearly still a very long way to go!

0 thoughts on “Home Office Orals

  1. Excellent to see the issue being taken seriously, Lynne, and thanks for offering some explanation behind the issue.

    A quick point – it might seem light nit-picking, but you wrote “…won’t often help the police as they want to carry on their customs”. FMG is not a custom any more than domestic violence of slavery is a custom. It’s a brutal, disgusting practice. The fact that some people excuse it by claiming it’s a custom is ghastly, but this moral is absolute – FMG is universally bad.

    The lack of prosecutions is disturbing. If the issue was rape we would, rightly, be asking if we could do more to get people to step forward. Many of the same issues apply: one person’s word against another’s, shame in reporting the issue and even the abhorrent use of ‘customs’ to excuse the crime. What can be done to get round these barriers in the same way we try to get more victims of rape to testify and obtain convictions?

    Tom

  2. Lynne it’s great to see you tackling the seriosu problem as FGM, but for someone who’s remit is equality then one has to wonder why the lack of concern for male vicitms

    I realise your far form the only one guilty in this regard but it really would be nice too see some politicians having have the decent to speak out again male genital mutilation too.

    If it’s morally wrong to chop off parts of a girl’s genitalia without her consent, reduce her seuxal pleasure and cause her harm and suffering because of some backward culture/religion, then the very same principles should apply to boys.

    It might be true that some forms of FGM are more harmful than the male version, but then it’s equally true that other types of FGM actually do less damage than than removal of the foreskin.

    Therefore if damage caused is your argument then we should actually be legalising two of the four types of FGM and banning male genital mutilation first. However surely any right minded person would be against removing parts of a child’s body because some non existent being in the clouds insists on it? After all there’s no such thing as minor surgery – every single procedure carries risks, including the risk of death.

    Obviously I accept that for someone with Lynne’s background it’s perhaps difficult to appreciate there is a problem with male genital mutilation, though at the same time anyone of Muslim or Jewish heritage has a tremendous opportunity to speak out against such child abuse without being branded insensitive.

    Lynne could you please out line the coalition and or Lib Dem position of male genital mutilation or your own views on the subject as this is an issue which people have remained silent about for far too long now?

    William Hague has at least discussed the issue in the past so it would be good to hear a Lib Dem viewpoint.

    Here’s a good telegraph piece on the issue:
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/cristinaodone/100043247/its-time-to-protect-boys-as-well-as-girls-from-the-barbaric-practice-of-circumcision/

    Many thanks

  3. OK perhaps I was aiming too high in the previous post and looking for the government to run before it could walk.

    One simple idea as an alternative. In this era of cuts and austerity, can you please make sure that the first job losses in the NHS involve doctors spending their time carrying out state sponsored genital mutilation of boys for religious reasons.

    This currently occurs in Birmingham and I find it quite ridiculous that taxpayers are funding harmful and totally unnecessary procedures whilst cancer sufferers are denied treatment.