Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: Introduction

This book is not a comfortable read, nor has it been an easy book to write.

The subject is of itself both exceedingly unpleasant and very distressing to contemplate, even at a safely cerebral distance. Close up or at first hand female genital mutilation (FGM) is traumatising: harrowing to observe and painful beyond endurance to experience directly. It is sometimes lethal and often permanently damaging, both physically and psychologically. its consequences carry on through generations, as women who have undergone FGM encounter obstetric problems, and their children – boys and girls, both – in turn are more likely than others to die, or to live lives marred by their difficult entry into the world.

Every eleven seconds a girl baby, child or young woman somewhere in the world undergoes genital mutilation, often by force and without pain relief or asepsis. FGM is a global epidemic of immense proportions; 3 million mutilations are estimated to be carried out every year….

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Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation Chapter 6: Legislation and Governance

The UK Parliament has been sporadically concerned with female genital mutilation for almost a century, and British statute goes back three or more decades; but as of early 2015 there still has not been a single successful prosecution concerning any aspect of FGM. The circumstances which have produced this situation are complex, and, as the 2014 Report of the UK Parliament Home Affairs Select Committee1 (the ‘Vaz Report’) demonstrates, responsibility for upholding the law has frequently seemed to be regarded as someone else’s to resolve, whenever any public service professional is asked.

Thus we find ourselves in a position where the UK Parliament has pondered FGM for generations, but still some issues around legislation are unresolved. Frustration at the snail’s pace of effective legal positions has been shared by many, from way back in time – amongst those impatient with progress being Sophie Ramsay, great-great-niece of Katherine Atholl who co-chaired the first parliamentary committee, in 1929.

And the global legal community has also been overtly concerned about FGM since at least the end of the Second World War. The illegality of female genital mutilation is grounded in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in formal international law and in the explicit legislation of many nations around the world, including the United Kingdom.

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