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Live webchat about FGM and violence against women with Lynne Featherstone, MP, minister at the Department for International Development, Thursday 20 June, 1pm-2pm.

(110 Posts)
MylinhMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 18-Jun-13 14:46:27

Hello

We'll be welcoming Lib Dem MP and International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone this Thursday from 1pm - 2pm for a LIVE webchat.

As Minister Lynne leads on the government's Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy; the UK's international development programme in Africa; and on issues such as malaria, water and sanitation, polio and HIV. She is especially interested in your questions around the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision. Lynne spearheaded a government announcement earlier this year on a five-year programme to help end FGM within a generation.

FGM is illegal in the UK, but it is estimated that up to 20,000 girls in the UK are at risk of suffering genital mutilation, and that more than 60,000 women have already been cut. With UK schools' summer holidays fast-approaching, the risk to thousands of girls living in the UK is at its highest, as many girls return to visit their extended families in Africa, where over 95% of all FGM takes place.

Join us this Thursday to find out more about UK's work to end FGM in Africa and beyond, and - if interested - listen in advance to a podcast of three activists working to end FGM within Africa and the UK. You can also find out more on FGM - what it is, its risks and practices - here.

The Minister will be interested in hearing your thoughts and questions on this, and more of course. Please do join us on the day or, as ever, post your question in advance below.

Thanks
MNHQ

Can we learn any lessons from the way foot binding was eradicated in China (in a relatively short time) in relation to FGM?

cantreachmytoes Thu 20-Jun-13 06:47:36

I have lived in a country that practices FGM and been involved in work on maternal child health in a local government project, which touched on FGM.

In our country the subject seems to boil down to the trauma from the mutilation and loss of sexual pleasure, neither of which are insignificant, but in reality it goes far, far beyond that.

I am not convinced that the men of these communities fully understand the life-long health implications of FGM, as from what i understand women themselves rarely talk about them and as many suffer the same complaints, when they are discussed, they are normalised.

I say mention this because I'm not sure how any program can be successful in eradicating it from the UK without taking a sensitive, but radical approach to it. Entire communities need to be involved/targeted, need to be made aware of exactly what it entails at the time and the full list of long lasting effects. It's not "women's business" it affects the men too and in ways they don't often realise.

It also seems that while important to be culturally sensitive, the rights of the child must come above that. Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says that State Parties must "take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence".

Is the government REALLY willing to get its hands dirty? Is there honestly going to be the funding needed to get social services, medical and mental health services etc involved, never mind prosecutions based on UK laws of torture and/or child abuse? If not, is not the government in violation of the above article?

Fozziebearmum2b Thu 20-Jun-13 08:02:59

I'm interested in your views on male circumcision too, surely if we should irradiate the barbaric practice in women, we should also stop this in men.

Utterly shocked (but not surprised) by FGM conviction rates-doesn't appear that gov are actually taking this seriously in practice. I'd like to see more action and less talk.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 08:52:12

Lynne, thank you for doing this web chat. My question is:

If a girl in a UK school goes today to a teacher, and says that she fears she is going to be 'cut' this summer, what are the procedures for making sure that (a) that girl is properly protected, and (b) that those conspiring to assault her are prosecuted?

Is there a legal duty on those you would expect to be involved - the teacher, the school, the police and the CPS - to protect and prosecute?

I think its fantastic that DFID have committed to ending FGM in a generation and congratulate Lynn Featherstone on achieving this. I work a lot in countries where FGM is practiced and I've seen that it is nearly always linked with the equally abusive practice of child marriage. Where FGM rates go down, early marriage rates often go up as an alternative way of making girls pure and obedient wives.

I've heard DFID be vocal on working to end child marriage as well - but how are you joining up your efforts to tackle both, and together, and making sure that eradicating FGM doesn't make child marriage happen more? Will you call for an end to child marriage in a generation too?

MerryMarigold Thu 20-Jun-13 10:39:24

This question has been asked, but I wanted to ask it again: why has their never been a prosecution in this country for FGM? Not sure this is your remit, but is there anything you can do in this area?

Also, I believe more schools in this country need training on spotting the signs and then in dealing with it. Are there any plans in place for this?

EndFGM Thu 20-Jun-13 11:15:56

Dear Ms Featherstone,

The EU and its member states are the largest aid donors in the world. The DFID has recently set up a sizeable fund of £35 million to “galvanise a global movement” to end FGM. The European Commission launched a public consultation this year and is expected to offer its own action plan on FGM. Given the overlapping opportunities, how does the UK plan to work with the EU on tackling FGM in Europe and the world? How would the UK support a common European action plan on FGM?

Thank you,

Christine Loudes
Director
Amnesty International END FGM European Campaign
www.endfgm.eu

RukayahFORWARD Thu 20-Jun-13 11:27:54

Minister,

(a) Britain has taken a lead on working to secure a global end to FGM. However, there still isn’t accurate data on the number of women and girls affected by FGM in the UK. What plans does the Government have in place to gather data on the occurrence of FGM?

(b) Girls and women affected by FGM require specialised health and support services. What is the UK Government doing to ensure that support for girls and women who have undergone or are affected by FGM is readily available, and easily accessible?

Rukayah Sarumi
Campaigns and Advocacy Manager
FORWARD (UK's lead organisation tackling FGM)

GirlsNotBrides Thu 20-Jun-13 11:31:31

Dear Ms. Featherstone,

Thank you for taking the time to answer questions about DFID’s work to address female genital mutilation / cutting (FGM/C) in the UK and abroad.

FGM/C is a harmful traditional practice driven by discriminatory gender norms that govern women and girls’ behaviour, especially sexual and reproductive behaviour, and aim to preserve their modesty in order to guarantee their sexual security.

Similar beliefs about women and girls’ value also underlie the harmful traditional practice of child marriage, and it is worth noting that, as a rite of passage into adulthood, FGM/C is often a precursor to girls’ child marriage.

Research findings released earlier this year by World Vision UK seemed to indicate that approaches that had successfully reduced the incidence of FGM/C in Somaliland had unexpectedly led to an increase in early marriages. As the procedure changed from infibulation to “mere” Sunna (cutting), families felt that girls would be more sensitive and therefore more likely to engage in early sexual activity. To curb their libido, they would be married at an early age.

With that in mind:

How does DFID plan on addressing the practice of child marriage within its efforts to end FGM/C?

How does DFID plan on working with communities to change attitudes, not only on FGM, but more broadly around the norms and values that underlie discriminatory practices towards girls?

liger Thu 20-Jun-13 12:12:33

Lynne, you are my local MP so I'm pleased to see you are focusing on this issue and discussing it on mumsnet.

Many of my questions have already been asked very eloquently on this thread, however beneath this topic lies the desperate need for women's empowerment and education. Empowerment and education of young women so that they are in a position to have a voice and an opinion on this practice within their culture. But also empowerment and education for the older women of these societies who often perform and perpetuate FGM. If cutting is one of the few means of getting a standing in a community it will continue, and it will be hard to eradicate until other means to power are achieved or it is made more socially important to step away from this practice altogether. Finally education and empowerment for mothers to be able to withstand the peer pressure of tradition and the fear that their daughters will be rejected.

I wish you luck with your aim to end FGM in a generation, please tell us you have secured a long term budget to make this happen?

OrchidProject Thu 20-Jun-13 12:36:44

Dear Ms Featherstone,

Thank you for providing this opportunity to ask further questions about the work that DFID is undertaking to tackle female genital cutting.

In Africa alone, 3 million girls are at risk of being cut each year. 130 million women and girls worldwide are living with the effects of female genital cutting. Female genital cutting is a harmful practice involving full or partial removal of a girl?s external genitals. FGC serves no medical purpose and leads to many severe impacts throughout life, while the practice is not required or recommended by any religion.

On average, girls are cut between ages of five and eight and those who have experienced the procedure will be affected physically, psychologically and socio-economically. The practice contravenes human, women?s and child rights.

You have visited the work that our partner, Tostan, is doing in Senegal, and DFID has taken time to understand their approach. Given that it has led to over 6,500 communities declaring abandonment of female genital cutting, could you talk a little about your experience there?

Many thanks,

Orchid Project

www.orchidproject.org

Bicnod Thu 20-Jun-13 12:37:56

Thank you so much for coming to talk to us about FGM - and brilliant that the government has committed to helping to end FGM in a generation.

Most of my questions have already been asked but I have a couple more:

Firstly, have you secured government support in the countries you will be working in to end FGM?

Secondly - how will you ensure local women play a key part in project development and delivery from the beginning? I suspect a lot of local opposition to this sort of programme will come from women themselves, so as liger has pointed out this will presumably need to be tied in with a wider education and empowerment programme?

Finally, how long will the programme continue for? I can see that funding has been secured for 5 years but I should imagine ending FGM worldwide will take longer than this (!) Is the government fully committed to making funding available for as long as it takes?

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 12:40:08

TEST

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 12:40:53

It's amazing, isn't it? So many voices shouting against FGM, powerful voices, influential voices - and still it continues, and still no-one is prosecuted for this crime.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 12:41:28

testing

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 12:49:47

Hello Lynne. Welcome to MN. smile

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 20-Jun-13 12:59:43

Pleased to say Lynne is here and ready to go so we'll be kicking off in a jiffy.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:00:16

Hello everyone, i'm just delighted to be at Mumsnet. Looking forward to all your questions. This is a major violence against women issue, both around the world and also here at home.

Lynne

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:02:20

JeanBillie

It would be so much easier for those of us not directly affected by FGM to sweep it under the carpet, so thanks for making us think about it. As the mother of a nearly 2 year old daughter, it's unbearable to read about what girls go through.

My question is: what, in your experience, is the main reasoning behind those who practice FGM? What's the cultural value attached to it that needs to be removed in order for future generations to stop believing it's acceptable or desirable it for their daughters? Forgive my ignorance; I'm interested to hear more.

FGM is complex and the reasons behind it vary a lot between different countries and ethnic groups. But – in general – it is carried out because it associated with beliefs about women’s purity, controlling their sexuality and preventing sex outside marriage. In these communities it is considered essential for a girl to get married. That’s why it’s very difficult for individual families to decide on their own not to cut their daughters, because that would risk them not being able to get married and in some cultures would mean them being ostracised. This is why it is important to work with whole communities to end FGM.

FGM is also sometimes claimed to be carried out in accordance with religious beliefs but neither Christian nor Muslim teachings condone it.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:06:04

Bicnod

Thank you so much for coming to talk to us about FGM - and brilliant that the government has committed to helping to end FGM in a generation.

Most of my questions have already been asked but I have a couple more:

Firstly, have you secured government support in the countries you will be working in to end FGM?

Secondly - how will you ensure local women play a key part in project development and delivery from the beginning? I suspect a lot of local opposition to this sort of programme will come from women themselves, so as liger has pointed out this will presumably need to be tied in with a wider education and empowerment programme?

Finally, how long will the programme continue for? I can see that funding has been secured for 5 years but I should imagine ending FGM worldwide will take longer than this (!) Is the government fully committed to making funding available for as long as it takes?

Hi Bicnod. In answer to your first question: Right now, DFID works through 2 UN organisations, who work with national governments and on the ground with local communities. There is no way such programmes could be successful without working with the local community and, in fact, being directed by the local community.

PromQueenWithin Thu 20-Jun-13 13:09:25

"There is no way such programmes could be successful without working with the local community and, in fact, being directed by the local community."

That's really interesting. How do you overcome initial objections by the community to what they probably regard as outside interference from people who have no place meddling in their business?

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 13:10:21

Lynne, could I ask please about your reply to Bicnod:

Which governments, specifically?

And do you agree with her, as do I (regretfully IYSWIM) that a lot of local opposition will come from women, and so how will this actually be tackled?

IntlPlannedParenthoodFed Thu 20-Jun-13 13:10:34

Hi Lynne,
We applaud DFID for the initiative to end FGM and for helping bring the harmful effects of this practice to attention.

As a global organization leading on sexual and reproductive health, IPPF has always had a fruitful partnership with DFID, coming together to deliver sexual and reproductive health services and advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights for the world's most marginalized and under-served communities.

It is the world's poorest women and girls who suffer as a result of denied access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. FGM is one terrible example of this.

IPPF has been working in the Seguela district in Cote d'Ivoire where the prevalence of FGM is a staggering 88%. The overall aim of the project was to reduce the prevalence of FGM in the district, with an emphasis on changing attitudes at the community level. Key achievements of IPPF's addressing FGM project were:
- 202,000 people attended awareness raising activities around the abandonment of FGM, health implications of FGM, the law against FGM and forced marriage
- 4 arrests made
- 17 ex-practitioners agreed to abandon the practice of FGM

We know that FGM has a negative lifetime impact on women who have been cut. IPPF asks:

* How will the initiative ensure that, there is no additional stigma or discrimination against women who have had this procedure practiced on them?

* What are DFID's actions to strengthen health system responses for survivors?

* What role does DFID see men & boys playing in changing social norms and ending FGM?

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:10:43

scallopsrgreat

Hi Lynne thanks for coming on. Can I ask what is being done about prosecution of those that perpetuate FGM in this country or prosecuting those that send their girls abroad to undergo the mutilation?

We are working on this. It is frustrating that there have not been any prosecutions so far. We have strengthened current legislation on FGM and we will continue to try a get a prosecution for this crime. The Director of Public Prosecutions has recently published an action plan, and the Crown Prosecution Service has launched FGM legal guidance for prosecutors.

It's important also to remember that prosecution relies on an often young girl being willing to give evidence, often against her family, which can be very difficult particularly if pressure is put on her from her family or community.

It is also illegal to take a girl abroad for UK residents to carry out FGM abroad, even in countries where FGM is legal. However, the same difficulties in prosecuting still apply.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:11:02

GirlsNotBrides

Dear Ms. Featherstone,

Thank you for taking the time to answer questions about DFID?s work to address female genital mutilation / cutting (FGM/C) in the UK and abroad.

FGM/C is a harmful traditional practice driven by discriminatory gender norms that govern women and girls? behaviour, especially sexual and reproductive behaviour, and aim to preserve their modesty in order to guarantee their sexual security.

Similar beliefs about women and girls? value also underlie the harmful traditional practice of child marriage, and it is worth noting that, as a rite of passage into adulthood, FGM/C is often a precursor to girls? child marriage.

Research findings released earlier this year by World Vision UK seemed to indicate that approaches that had successfully reduced the incidence of FGM/C in Somaliland had unexpectedly led to an increase in early marriages. As the procedure changed from infibulation to ?mere? Sunna (cutting), families felt that girls would be more sensitive and therefore more likely to engage in early sexual activity. To curb their libido, they would be married at an early age.

With that in mind:

How does DFID plan on addressing the practice of child marriage within its efforts to end FGM/C?

How does DFID plan on working with communities to change attitudes, not only on FGM, but more broadly around the norms and values that underlie discriminatory practices towards girls?

Thank you for your question. You can't really work to tackle FGM without encompassing child marriage. The UN organisations who we're working with currently address both issues, but this is the start of our work on ending FGM within a generation and, as we go on, we will need to address as a constant the consequences of ending FGM.

On your second question, you raise in my view one of the most important points about ending FGM, which is that this is about changing social norms and in this particular case one that has been in place for several thousand years. That is why i am so interested personally in behaviour-change models, which are about how whole communities work together and recognition of what benefits the whole community as well as ending an obviously hideous practice.

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