Julian Huppert writes … The first Girl Summit

girlsummitlogoToday London hosts the first Girl Summit. Liberal Democrats in Government across every department have made the issue of gender inequality a priority. We understand that none of us can move forward if half of us are held back and this means tackling inequality and violence against women and girls wherever we find it.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage are two of the oldest and most extreme ways girls are stunted and harmed for life and we have made a commitment to work with Governments across the world, NGOs, faith leaders and communities to end these abhorrent practices.

The summit is a culmination of the great work we have already done as well as an inspiration and commitment to do more. Lynne Featherstone working first in the Home Office and now at the Department for International Development has led the charge in breaking the taboo about talking about FGM. She and the Deputy Prime Minister have supported the voices of brave women who campaign and educate their own communities about the dangers of this outdated cultural practice and The Girl Summit has brought these actors together to share experiences, best practice and work together with others to secure commitments for strong global action.

In Britain alone it estimated that 60,000 young girls are at risk of being cut every year whilst the UK’s Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support related to over 1,300 possible cases in 2013 alone. And these are the cases we know about, unfortunately it is still often a hidden crime. This makes the work being done at community level incredibly important. Stephen Williams as Minister for Communities and Local Government has been working tirelessly up and down the country to build a ground swell of support against FGM and child, early and forced marriage including the signing of a joint declaration against the practice of FGM by religious and community leaders which sends a clear signal that religion does not demand it or condone it.

And in Government we’re matching condemnation with action. Today Norman Baker is meeting with counterparts in France, a country which has had a number of successful prosecutions, to see how we can boost prosecutions at home. This will involving training frontline staff to identify and act on abuse and Nick Clegg recently announced additional training and guidance to equip frontline staff from teachers to nurses to do just this.

This package of measures, at home and abroad, delivered by Lib Dem Minsters working together across Government gets us on the right path to banishing FGM and child, early and forced marriage. Right now we are failing girls in the UK and the millions who suffer abroad but as more and more people say no to these practices I am convinced that we can end this in a generation.

* Julian Huppert was the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge from 2010-15

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9 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Jul '14 - 8:02pm

    I applaud specialist events tackling girl issues, but I want a proper political debate where people are allowed to ask difficult questions without receiving abuse.

    It doesn’t help girls if we just accept that every form is unspeakably bad and we should start demonising and locking up their parents for long periods of time. We also cannot deal with girls issues in total isolation from boys issues.

    I would like to start with a doctors report on the different forms of FGM, how common they are and how it compares with MGM. All these issues are related and just getting angry about them doesn’t help anyone. We can’t fairly decide on things such as prison sentences unless we are allowed to dig for the truth.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Jul '14 - 8:05pm

    The doctors report should try to explain as accurately as possible how bad FGM is. As I said, a campaigners report saying it is “unspeakably bad”, doesn’t help us fairly decide on things such as punishments for parents.

  • Richard Dean 22nd Jul '14 - 8:12pm

    Imagine having our cock cut off, Eddie. It’s not unrealistic, there are probably quite a few people who’d be willing to do it. How would you rate the experience and the subsequent life, on a scale from 1=”pleasant surprise” to 10=”unspeakably bad”?

  • Richard Dean 22nd Jul '14 - 8:14pm

    our –> your! For me it would be a 10.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Jul '14 - 8:44pm

    Richard, comparisons like that are unhelpful, which is exactly why I asked for a doctors report. It was clear from my messages that I wanted a serious discussion.

  • Richard Dean 22nd Jul '14 - 8:58pm

    If you are unable to imagine, then why not try researching this stuff on the internet, Eddie? There’s plenty of information available that will help you understand the problem. Or maybe go to a conference or two? You could even ask your NHS doctor. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/female-genital-mutilation/Pages/Introduction.aspx

  • @Eddie Sammon
    “We also cannot deal with girls issues in total isolation from boys issues.”

    Normally I would not agree with you on that, and I certainly don’t agree in the case of FGM.

    However, according to the Forced Marriage Unit, around 15% of victims of forced marriage in the UK are boys or young men. So I’m slightly uneasy that forced marriage is suddenly being conflated with FGM and talked of as if it’s an entirely girl-related issue.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Jul '14 - 10:48am

    Hi Stuart, I’ll stand by my claim of being unable to deal with girls issues in total isolation from boys issues. Equality is about equality, not segregation. Of course, people shouldn’t bang on about the boys all the time, but there is nothing wrong with mentioning them at the end of comments.

    When it comes to forced marriage you make a good point about 15% of victims being boys and feeling uneasy about people treating it as a girl- only issue. Unfortunately, there are many areas of politics, from body confidence to forced marriage where feminists are trying to make them girl-only issues and people need to stand up to it.

  • Let the Home Office make a start on tackling FGM by granting leave to remain to MAIMUNA JAWO, the Gambian hereditary cutter, whose asylum claim has been rejected and lives in fear of removal to her country where she will be forced to take up this ghastly family job. She has been threatened by local elders with reprisals if she refuses. Maimuna, who gave evidence to the APPG detention inquiry this week, is on our side – please help her to remain here. Women for Refugee Women site for more info.

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