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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

JeanBillie Tue 18-Jun-13 19:34:11

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.

MsAnnTeak Tue 18-Jun-13 23:08:56

'A Multi-faceted Approach to Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation' is a paper by Emily Rojer. She aims to give the reader an overview behind the contemporary understanding of female genital mutilation and its consequences, as well as the prevailing reasons behind the persistence of the practice.

Worth reading

lsaw.lib.lehigh.edu/index.php/libprize/article/view/276/84

MiniTheMinx Wed 19-Jun-13 09:35:26

Hi Lynne, I am very glad that an effort is now being made to eradicate this barbaric abuse of women and girls.

I'm reading a very interesting book at the moment by Tahira S. Khan, A Historical Materialist Explanation of Honour Related Violence.

One of the points the book makes and that I fully endorse it that the material and economic basis of peoples lives drive culture and religion. Practice shapes ideology rather than ideas shaping practice.

Nawal El Saadawi www.nawalsaadawi.net/ says "The life of the people and their essential needs are dependent on economics and not on religion. Throughout human history the standards and values of religion have themselves been shaped by the economy. The oppression of women in any society is in its turn a statement of an economic structure built on land ownership, systems of inheritance and parenthood and the patriarchal family an an inbuilt social unit"

I have read a couple of the links and found the "business case" I would like to ask two things.

1) what sort of organisations will be invited to tender for the frontline work and research?

2) In view of the fact that economics shapes lives and ideology, women's oppression is tied to the means of production and ownership of resources, I feel that no ideological or cultural change can happen without changes to the economic base structure that underpins all social relations, creating vast inequalities of wealth and therefore social power. Will the vast sums of money being invested into this project, be used effectively to train, empower and support WOMEN in these communities to be agents of change.

Or is this another case of western cultural and economic imperialism forcing our own ideologies whilst still perpetuating the same inhumane patriarchal economic system of capitalism? A system that is actually at the root of women's oppression. Patriarchal private ownership of all resources from cotton and food to women's bodies is the starting point for any critical analysis and effort for change. There is always a tendency to focus on cultural norms, this is cart before horse and an attempt to eradicate proper analysis and ward off any criticism of our economic system.

scallopsrgreat Wed 19-Jun-13 09:40:42

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?

Crumblemum Wed 19-Jun-13 10:07:07

I think I'm right that there's never been a prosecution in the UK against this practice. Surely until that happens, people will not think there is a real threat that they'll be dealt with. Can you tell me what resources and training the police are receiving so that this happens? Which police forces are leading the work?

AmyFarrahFowlerCooper Wed 19-Jun-13 11:32:55

I was wondering, what happens if a girl knows she is going to be mutiliated or sent abroad for that reason? Is there anywhere she can go for help or to escape that situation?

MavisOwusu Wed 19-Jun-13 12:16:15

Most young girls fear exclusion and in desperation to belong accept and avoid potential violence do not report FGM plans in their homes or communities. How do we help them to raise the alarm before it is too late whilst simultaneously supporting them to not loose their familes and the networks they are so dependent on.

RiotsNotDiets Wed 19-Jun-13 14:42:00

In France, the genitals of young girls in practicing diaspora groups are routinely checked for evidence of FGM as a prevention method.

In FGM discussions, I often hear people calling for similar measures in the UK.

However, I believe that this is a gross intrusion of privacy and is degrading and discriminatory. I also think that this would only serve as a means to push FGM practice further underground and perpetuate an 'us and them' dialogue.

While girls were in the right age group for the checks they would be safe from being subjected to FGM, however I believe this would simply encourage the practice to be postponed until the girl was old enough to refuse the checks.

I was wondering if you agreed with me, or if you feel that FGM checks are an effective and appropriate way to protect girls at risk of FGM? Do you think that this is a method the UK would employ, and if not how do you hope to protect girls at risk?

scallopsrgreat Wed 19-Jun-13 15:15:52

"In France, the genitals of young girls in practicing diaspora groups are routinely checked for evidence of FGM as a prevention method." Fuck <head desk> That is shocking!

grehman Wed 19-Jun-13 15:21:00

FGM is a gross violation of the human rights of women and girls and yet another example of society’s attempts to control women in the name of honour, culture and tradition. In this case, by denying women and girls the right to a fulfilling and healthy sexual and reproductive life. Any action to eradicate this barbaric practice requires a holistic and strategic approach to improve the status of women and girls through improved access to quality education (especially secondary education), sexual and reproductive health choices (including safe abortion), prevention of violence against women and girls and increased economic status. Only by working in an integrated way across all 4 sectors in a joined-up way will women and girls be empowered to fight for their rights.

ncforembarrassingproblem Wed 19-Jun-13 16:00:43

Hello Lynne,

Do you feel that alterations (such as piercings, plastic surgery, and on a more minor note, vajazzaling) to the vulva that are somewhat commonly carried out in the UK today make female circumcision appear somewhat more acceptable or more "normal" to those who might carry it out?

I recognise there is a clear difference in terms of consent, want and purpose but do you feel that allowing such alterations paves the way for people to undertake alterations for the wrong purposes?

For example - if girls from certain backgrounds are shown (through the media) that women commonly alter their bits for varying purposes, they may feel that the alterations their parents are pushing on them may be more acceptable? If that makes sense at all.

I recognise our rights to alter our bodies (consensually) as we please (I speak as a woman who's actually had a labiaplasty although for medical purposes), but perhaps we have to consider the effects this might have on wider society?

Apologies if my question makes no real sense!!

slug Wed 19-Jun-13 16:11:16

Hi Lynne

How do you square budget cuts to CEOP with the government's VAWG strategy?

silstrep Wed 19-Jun-13 16:20:22

I don't want to take this discussion off-topic but as a gov minister I'd really like to know what your thoughts are on mumsnet's bounty campaign? I've read lots this last week from journalists, mums, midwives etc. but not a peep from you, our democratic reps!

Thanks in advance

Getting in on this

BIWI Wed 19-Jun-13 18:02:20

Given the whole Charles Saatchi/Nigella Lawson debacle, what is your view on how we need to deal with the issue of domestic violence in general and, specifically, how we deal with it in the media?

Some of the stuff that was written trying to explain Mr Saatchi's gripping of Nigella around the throat was truly horrible. How do we deal with the culture of victim-blaming that we appear to have?

YoniMatopoeia Wed 19-Jun-13 18:50:39

What can be done to get more convictions for FGM? It is absolutely shocking that no-one has yet been prosecuted, let alone convicted.

While it is interesting to see what the UK is doing for girls and women here, and that the UK is working with UN agencies and the WHO, I find it sad that nothing I can find in your post yet shows the reality that the biggest force is eliminating FGM are African women themselves, individually and together in many non-profit groups What is the UK and UN doing to support them, and what more can be done to support this as the proven most effective way of stopping this?

Wonderstuff Wed 19-Jun-13 20:01:10

The questions I was going to ask have been raised, so I'll just say thanks for coming on, glad the government is acting on this.

CheungFun Wed 19-Jun-13 20:25:43

I first learned about FGM several years ago when I read 'Desert Flower' by Waris Dirie, and I was shocked that such things could be done to girls. I'm glad that the government is now taking notice of this issue.

What will be the governments approach to preventing this happening to girls in the UK and abroad?

Also I was speaking to my DM this morning about domestic violence and she said that when the first battered wives home opened in England (1974 I believe) people were 'disgusted'. I think there is still a lot of work to be done to change people's views, there is a lot of victim blaming still happening and I would like to know if you could share your thoughts on this please?

plainbellysneetch Wed 19-Jun-13 21:54:14

I've got two questions.

Firstly, I've tried to campaign about this issue, in a fairly small way, before. What stymied me was that there was no umbrella campaign that drew together the various very small groups who are already doing so. The Home Office (I think) had a small consultation group - but it was disbanded about 18 months ago. Now, as far as I know, there is no government body charged with oversight of this issue with a duty to report their findings and put policy into practice. Which to me indicates that, while the govt might talk the talk, it's not walking the walk.

So my first question is, is there currently a funded body with power to make recommendations which local authorities must follow which is working towards eradicating FGM in communities where children are vulnerable?

I'll put my other question in another post - sorry, dd is up.

plainbellysneetch Wed 19-Jun-13 22:36:52

I'm back from putting dd (7) back to sleep; it's been useful thinking time.

My thought was that if she wasn't her, but one of the other children in her East London school, around now she could be taken for a 'holiday' and held down while her clitoris was cut out with a blade or sharpened stone and her outer labia were cut off/stitched together.

I see the cauterised look in the eyes of the older girls who've gone on these 'holidays' at her school - and it makes me cry. I can't, of course, meet their eye.

Why, for the love of god, are we not putting everything we have into stopping this? It's torture. Proper torture, like in a horror film. Can you imagine watching that on screen - a nine year old girl having that done to her?

This issue is at the very heart of what equality means. Any other govt efforts to make things better for girls generally are worth nothing if you're not prepared to fix this, now.

In the short term, we need a clear commitment to target the communities that do this to their daughters. Anyone who puts any issue at all - including but not limited to, 'cultural sensitivities' - above the need to stop girls being mutilated, is complicit in horrific abuse.

Why can't those schools who have students from communities which mutilate their girls send notes home, reminding parents that this is punishable by imprisonment - whether it takes place either here or abroad, under the same child abuse legislation that makes UK sex tourists prosecutable?

I know that this has been suggested, but rejected on the grounds that it might be taken to be demonising whole communities.

To my mind, the rights of one little girl not to be put through excruciating pain; to not have the possibility of any adult sexual pleasure gouged out of her genitals; that trumps.. well, almost everything. And certainly the 'sensitivities' of her community.

That's made me think - I reckon there's a human rights case to be brought around this failure to protect children.

grimbletart Wed 19-Jun-13 23:37:20

As the above poster said, I find it difficult to accept or understand why we pussyfoot around 'culture'. This is the UK and our culture does not accept the torture of little girls. Why are we so apparently impotent to protect our nation's children?

peacefuleasyfeeling Thu 20-Jun-13 00:07:28

Good evening, Plain. I tried to PM you, but it doesn't seem to work on this thread, to say that for what it is worth, at my inner city primary school we did exactly that; following reports of FGM "parties" being held in our city, as well as an increase in holiday requests for single female siblings to be taken abroad (for instance, a 7 year old girl, with 4 other siblings attending our school, being taken abroad on her own), we invited medical experts in the field of FGM, interpreters and community leaders and held a meeting (open to all parents and carers, not only those from communities in which FGM is practiced) to raise awareness of the issue and, in particular, of the legal implications of subjecting girls to this procedure whether in the UK or abroad.

There was a good uptake and our experience was not that the concerned communities felt alienated or picked on (we would have known about it in an instant if that was the case). As a school we have excellent community relations, and are in regular discussions with said groups about many, many cultural issues such as girls being allowed to attend swimming lessons in "appropriate attire", permission to participate in dance lessons as part of the PE curriculum, parental previewing of SRE teaching materials etc. In the case of FGM, as in any case concerning the safeguarding of any one of the pupils in our care, we expect to have straight and frank conversations with the parent/s involved, and certainly do not let cultural sensitivity or any other kind of inhibiting sensitivity get in the way. I hope this is encouraging.

phineasa Thu 20-Jun-13 00:07:36

Whom in the USA government would you like to contact to discuss
their possible involvement in the FGC campaign? As stated in the DFID
report, it is essential that other countries get on board financially. Perhaps we can help. I am an American living stateside.

You, the two Janes, The Orchid Project and others have set the stage. Thank you for all your good work thus far.

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.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:12:06

AmyFarrahFowlerCooper

I was wondering, what happens if a girl knows she is going to be mutiliated or sent abroad for that reason? Is there anywhere she can go for help or to escape that situation?

If a girl in the UK is concerned that she (or a friend) is at risk of FGM or that someone may be taken overseas for FGM they should call the police – 999. If someone is abroad and needs help or advice, they can call the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on +44 (0) 20 7008 1500.

There are also some extremely good organisations which can help – like Daughters of Eve 07983 030488. Childline 0800 1111, www.childline.org. Or Equality Now (in Nairobi, Kenya, and London), tel (London): +44(0) 20-7973 1292, (Nairobi): +254 20 271 832, www.equality now.org.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:15:48

LineRunner

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?

The UN programme works in 15 countries in Africa, for example Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Senegal and Ethiopia. There is a list online, which I can post to this thread later.

In terms of whether local woman disagree: there are issues around women's attitudes towards violence against women and it's been certainly shocking to find that there's a higher percentage of women who think it's okay for a man to abuse his wife than among men themselves in some countries. In terms of FGM itself, whilst women organise it and carry it out generally, it stems from the requirement to get a man for a husband and it's - in my view - a double-damage that women have come to carry this out on behalf of their communities.

There's a very strong women's movement in Africa to end FGM and they are the agents of change, which has now delivered, not only the UN General Assembly Resolution calling for a global ban, but also ensured that 25 African countries have now made it constitutionally illegal. Of course the law is not the end of this, but it's a very good start.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:16:32

MiniTheMinx

Hi Lynne, I am very glad that an effort is now being made to eradicate this barbaric abuse of women and girls.

I'm reading a very interesting book at the moment by Tahira S. Khan, A Historical Materialist Explanation of Honour Related Violence.

One of the points the book makes and that I fully endorse it that the material and economic basis of peoples lives drive culture and religion. Practice shapes ideology rather than ideas shaping practice.

Nawal El Saadawi www.nawalsaadawi.net/ says "The life of the people and their essential needs are dependent on economics and not on religion. Throughout human history the standards and values of religion have themselves been shaped by the economy. The oppression of women in any society is in its turn a statement of an economic structure built on land ownership, systems of inheritance and parenthood and the patriarchal family an an inbuilt social unit"

I have read a couple of the links and found the "business case" I would like to ask two things.

1) what sort of organisations will be invited to tender for the frontline work and research?

2) In view of the fact that economics shapes lives and ideology, women's oppression is tied to the means of production and ownership of resources, I feel that no ideological or cultural change can happen without changes to the economic base structure that underpins all social relations, creating vast inequalities of wealth and therefore social power. Will the vast sums of money being invested into this project, be used effectively to train, empower and support WOMEN in these communities to be agents of change.

Or is this another case of western cultural and economic imperialism forcing our own ideologies whilst still perpetuating the same inhumane patriarchal economic system of capitalism? A system that is actually at the root of women's oppression. Patriarchal private ownership of all resources from cotton and food to women's bodies is the starting point for any critical analysis and effort for change. There is always a tendency to focus on cultural norms, this is cart before horse and an attempt to eradicate proper analysis and ward off any criticism of our economic system.

Hi MinitheMinx

To take your 3rd question first...

We are absolutely clear that our work on FGM is about supporting an Africa-led movement. There is a lot of momentum now within Africa to end FGM, with communities deciding to stop, new laws and policies, leadership from first ladies and politicians. A resolution was passed at the United Nations General Assembly last December calling for a global ban – this was led by the Africa Group at the UN. The UK's role is to support these efforts and to encourage others to do so.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:16:53

Italiangreyhound

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

Yes. I often use this comparison in speeches i give about FGM because that is exactly the possibility that is held out - a very quick ending once this ball is really rolling.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:17:47

MiniTheMinx

2) In view of the fact that economics shapes lives and ideology, women's oppression is tied to the means of production and ownership of resources, I feel that no ideological or cultural change can happen without changes to the economic base structure that underpins all social relations, creating vast inequalities of wealth and therefore social power. Will the vast sums of money being invested into this project, be used effectively to train, empower and support WOMEN in these communities to be agents of change.

Yes – this whole programme is part of the UK government's commitment to put girls and women at the heart of our development efforts, and we believe that supporting women and girls to have power to being about this change themselves is fundamental.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:19:40

MiniTheMinx

1) what sort of organisations will be invited to tender for the frontline work and research?

There are three parts to the programme. The first includes work on the ground with communities and work to support changes in laws and policies in different African counties. The second is about helping the change movement in communities and countries with good communications and information about FGM. We have just started a competitive tendering process for this. The final component is the research. There is still not a lot of good information about FGM and what is the best way of tackling it. We are still deciding on exactly how this part of the programme will work but we're planning to start a competitive tendering process later in the year.

Bicnod Thu 20-Jun-13 13:19:56

Hi Lynne - thanks for answering one of my questions and for your reply to LineRunner.

Can I just follow up by asking for more on how local opposition from local women will be addressed? You say that whilst women organise it and carry it out generally, it stems from the requirement to get a man for a husband - so how will you begin to address this on the ground with local women? Women who want the best for their daughters and truly see FGM as the only way of getting that?

I know the law is a good place to start, but enforcing the law on this is going to be massively challenging if local women are not on board.

Bicnod Thu 20-Jun-13 13:20:53

Also - please can you answer my third question about how long the UK government will remain committed (i.e. with funding) to this programme?

slug Thu 20-Jun-13 13:21:00

Hi Lynne

Not a question. Just wanted to say thanks for obviously taking the time to read and prepare responses for some of the questions on this thread before you came on. Either that or you are a damn fast reader and typist. I think you've already managed to answer more questions than yer mate Dave did in the entire hour he was on.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 13:22:15

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.

That's disingenuous, though. The same used to be said about DV. There are myriad ways to recognise and gather evidence of a crime, and prosecute it. But you have to recognise it as a crime first, not just some kind of private complaint.

If a daughter who lives with me suddenly turned up at school with her genitals mutilated, I would expect to be prosecuted for at the very minimum neglect, even without a statement from her.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:23:16

MerryMarigold

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?

Thanks to all those who've addressed this point.

It's one of the most frustrating things to not have had a successful prosecution. There's a lot of work going on in the Home Office. Some of it is awareness raising, such as guidelines for front-line workers (doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers). The Director of Public Prosecutions has published an action plan on how we might better get the evidence needed for prosecution. Clearly girls are either too young or unwilling to give evidence against their parents, for example; however, Jeremy Browne (who is a Home Office Minister) and myself are meeting with the MET Police lead on child abuse in the next two weeks, who has publicly stated himself that he is on a mission to relentlessly pursue FGM cases in London.

I think it really is important to get a prosecution to send out a really clear message. However we have upwards of 20,000 girls of risk each year and another part of the answer has to be behaviour change because we're never going to put 20,000 sets of parents in prison. We need prosecutions; we need behaviour change; and we need everyone out there to help us.

So if you think a girl is in danger, then please contact any of the organisations referred to in my earlier post (At 13:12)

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:25:00

Bicnod

Also - please can you answer my third question about how long the UK government will remain committed (i.e. with funding) to this programme?

We've committed to reduce FGM over five years by 30% in at least 10 countries. But this is the start-up. We expect to galvanise a world movement to join in this endeavour. We expect our programme to run for at least 10 years.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 13:25:17

Yes, I support slug in saying that this is a really good and productive web chat with a politician.

MerryMarigold Thu 20-Jun-13 13:27:01

I know it's hard to get a prosecution, and of course so many parents could never be prosecuted. [Though I am sure it would act as a deterrent]. I just wonder how other countries have managed to get prosecutions.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:27:41

RiotsNotDiets

In France, the genitals of young girls in practicing diaspora groups are routinely checked for evidence of FGM as a prevention method.

In FGM discussions, I often hear people calling for similar measures in the UK.

However, I believe that this is a gross intrusion of privacy and is degrading and discriminatory. I also think that this would only serve as a means to push FGM practice further underground and perpetuate an 'us and them' dialogue.

While girls were in the right age group for the checks they would be safe from being subjected to FGM, however I believe this would simply encourage the practice to be postponed until the girl was old enough to refuse the checks.

I was wondering if you agreed with me, or if you feel that FGM checks are an effective and appropriate way to protect girls at risk of FGM? Do you think that this is a method the UK would employ, and if not how do you hope to protect girls at risk?

In France the girl babies are checked once a year to the age of 5/6 and genitally examined. Given that this is very specifically practiced by specific communities, it wouldn't seem the best approach or use of resources to examine our girls in that way.

The Public Health Minister came with me to an FGM clinic in London to talk to survivors and to look at ways of advice and intervention that would enable the community to both know more but also to suggest timely interventions where we could address particular issues.

Bicnod Thu 20-Jun-13 13:27:56

Yes - I'll third that - LynneFeatherstone wining the politicians' battle of the webchats so far grin

worldvision Thu 20-Jun-13 13:28:05

Dear Ms Featherstone,

World Vision congratulate you on your commitment to tackling violence against women and girls, and particularly harmful practices like FGM/C and child marriage that are so rooted in gender inequality. It is great to read from your response to GirlsNotBrides that DFID recognise the link between child marriage and FGM/C.

With this approach in mind, will some of the funding that DFID have committed go towards tackling child marriage, alongside efforts to eradicate FGM/C?

It would be great to see a declaration of commitment from the UK Government to ending child marriage in a generation, as well as FGM/C. Is this something you would support?

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:31:35

LineRunner

*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.*

That's disingenuous, though. The same used to be said about DV. There are myriad ways to recognise and gather evidence of a crime, and prosecute it. But you have to recognise it as a crime first, not just some kind of private complaint.

If a daughter who lives with me suddenly turned up at school with her genitals mutilated, I would expect to be prosecuted for at the very minimum neglect, even without a statement from her.

This is child abuse and of course prosecution is absolutely vital, but the focus when i meet the Met Police's lead on child abuse, will be to understand how we can get a prosecution against cutters or doctors practicing this illegally in the first instance.

If in the example you give, the girl came to her teacher and said 'i have been mutilated', then i would expect a prosecution to follow as you say, regardless of any other circumstances.

MiniTheMinx Thu 20-Jun-13 13:32:08

Thank you Lynne,

Thinking about a point that was made by IntlPlannedParenthoodFed can I ask one more question?

As attitudes change towards this practice and the prevalence of FGM decreases, how can we be sure that women here and in other countries who have been cut are able to access health services without feeling they might be stigmatised? I ask because a recent documentary touched upon this, some women were having home births in the UK and declining medical help because they feared that hospitals/doctors would have a negative opinion & question them because they had been cut.

phineasa Thu 20-Jun-13 13:34:51

HI Lynne,

5:30 am here in Tucson, Arizona. Just held a meeting of key FGC players
in D.C. to discuss next steps. Whom do you first want to approach here in the USA about securing funds from our side? We might be able to help.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:36:02

IntlPlannedParenthoodFed

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?

The work DFID is doing is in the developing world - and yes boys and men are absolutely crucial to the work going on there. I went to Senegal to visit the work of one organisation called Tostan, who have a two and a half year programme with a community. At the end of that period, if the community decides - and that's having done nearly three years' work all-inclusive of the religious leaders, the men, the boys, the women, and the children - to abandon FGM, then have a public declaration of abandonment (a bit like swearing an oath), it is delivered. Without the whole community, that would never be possible.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:37:49

RukayahFORWARD

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)

This in referring to your first question re. data. That is an issue I've discussed with Jeremy Browne (the Home Office minister responsible) and they're currently looking into how this can best be achieved.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:39:56

phineasa

HI Lynne,

5:30 am here in Tucson, Arizona. Just held a meeting of key FGC players
in D.C. to discuss next steps. Whom do you first want to approach here in the USA about securing funds from our side? We might be able to help.

Great to hear that Tucson is on it! We're already in contact with USAID and I've spoken to Bill Gates myself on this issue, but more help always welcome. PM Mumsnet you contact details and I'll be in touch.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 13:41:21

Lynne

Thank you for answering my questions so frankly.

What do you need from us to help secure future funding?

And just, thank you. (An often thankless task being a politician, I can imagine.)

liger Thu 20-Jun-13 13:41:34

I have too many small children bouncing all over me to add follow up comments - but am following as best I can.

MNHQ - more web chats like this please, less of the Holly/ Kelly promotion stuff from what I gathered of that.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:43:25

MavisOwusu

Most young girls fear exclusion and in desperation to belong accept and avoid potential violence do not report FGM plans in their homes or communities. How do we help them to raise the alarm before it is too late whilst simultaneously supporting them to not loose their familes and the networks they are so dependent on.

There are a number of good organisations - like Daughters of Eve, FORWARD, Equality Now - who all would be happy to hear from anyone who needs support.

Increasing awareness is also really important to make sure girls realise they are not alone: this is a big issue that matters to an awful lots of people in Britain, and webchats like this are really helpful in reaching out to a wide audience and showing how many people are interested in ending FGM.

I've met with a number of communities in the UK where FGM is an issue and there are very many women from those communities who are now taking an active role to raise awareness and give active support to women within their own group.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 13:44:13

p.s. I think we will have to prosecute some parents in the UK.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:45:21

END FGM

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

This is something that everyone needs to get on board with and we will be talking to all parties anywhere, whatever their spend, just to join in this campaign to end FGM.

The vision is to end FGM in a generation. To do that, everyone needs to get on board.

liger Thu 20-Jun-13 13:47:49

< have put Charlie and Lola on>

Lynne - did you see that Bicnod represented Mumsnet at the G8? Given that, and the level if the questions on this web chat what are your thoughts on Mumsnet as an agent of social change ??
and more specifically how much does DfID focus on motherhood as a key period in enabling the empowerment of women in their societies?

Thanks

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 13:48:22

Christine from Amnesty,

I am an Amnesty supporter myself; and I see exactly where you are coming from.

But in the meantime I really want Lynne Featherstone, ACPO and Keir Starmer to - frankly - just get on with it.

Bicnod Thu 20-Jun-13 13:50:14

Got to run to take DS1 to doc appt but will be back later to read rest of thread.

Thank you LynneFeatherstone for answering our questions with such care and respect. Very much appreciated.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:50:48

ncforembarrassingproblem

Hello Lynne,

Do you feel that alterations (such as piercings, plastic surgery, and on a more minor note, vajazzaling) to the vulva that are somewhat commonly carried out in the UK today make female circumcision appear somewhat more acceptable or more "normal" to those who might carry it out?

I recognise there is a clear difference in terms of consent, want and purpose but do you feel that allowing such alterations paves the way for people to undertake alterations for the wrong purposes?

For example - if girls from certain backgrounds are shown (through the media) that women commonly alter their bits for varying purposes, they may feel that the alterations their parents are pushing on them may be more acceptable? If that makes sense at all.

I recognise our rights to alter our bodies (consensually) as we please (I speak as a woman who's actually had a labiaplasty although for medical purposes), but perhaps we have to consider the effects this might have on wider society?

Apologies if my question makes no real sense!!

When i was Equalities Minister, I led a campaign in government about body confidence, now carried on by Jo Swinson. This speaks to the pressure women and young girls feel to be all sorts of things - thin, perfect, beautiful - and clearly that may extend in some to their private parts. We may wish it wasn't so but clearly some women do opt for cosmetic procedures to their private parts but the Department of Health has just reviewed all cosmetic surgery because it is very important in terms of guidelines. It is always done privately unless there is a very good medical reason for the NHS to carry out a procedure.

I think the work really has to go on on changing the unending pressure on girls and women to feel unhappy with themselves and to feel the necessity to do the extraordinary things in the name of perfection.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:52:25

grimbletart

As the above poster said, I find it difficult to accept or understand why we pussyfoot around 'culture'. This is the UK and our culture does not accept the torture of little girls. Why are we so apparently impotent to protect our nation's children?

In the past there has been some tiptoeing on cultural eggshells but that must not be the case. There is absolutely no excuse wherever you come from for committing child abuse, and this is an absolute!

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:57:58

MerryMarigold

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?

There are guidelines for teachers which give examples of what to look out for etc. I've also arranged a meeting with the Department For Education. Children Safeguarding Boards, which every local authority has, have a duty towards all children in their area and I think that might be a good local base to look at what actions they might wish to take locally to address FGM. OFSTED has to examine arrangements and policies on safeguarding when they inspect schools.

Hornsey Girls school in my own constituency have done a fantastic project on FGM and have made a film which they intend to show in all the school in Haringey.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 13:59:30

So if parents are conspiring to assault their daughters, we may intervene and prosecute.

In fact the quantity, the sheer scale of it, surely makes the imperative greater.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 14:01:43

Lynne Do teachers have legal duties to do something? (Even in private schools.)

(If I am appearing pushy I would say, You have convinced me how much this matters!)

liger Thu 20-Jun-13 14:03:24

Great to hear about that film, I will check if it will be shown I my sons school.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 14:04:29

BIWI

Given the whole Charles Saatchi/Nigella Lawson debacle, what is your view on how we need to deal with the issue of domestic violence in general and, specifically, how we deal with it in the media?

Some of the stuff that was written trying to explain Mr Saatchi's gripping of Nigella around the throat was truly horrible. How do we deal with the culture of victim-blaming that we appear to have?

Domestic violence is unacceptable and it is against the law. As I understand it, Mr Saatchi was cautioned.

If you go to the Home Office website or google 'this is abuse', you'll see two films about young people's abuse, which demonstrates how common it is for young people to think a degree of abuse is a norm and how little young people know about consent i.e. no means no. These were two campaigns when I was at the Home Office tackling domestic violence and demonstrate very clearly that this is an epidemic problem in this country as well as across the world.

PromQueenWithin Thu 20-Jun-13 14:06:37

Hello again, do you mind if I repeat my question as I think it may have been missed. Or perhaps it wasn't very interesting blush. Anyway, it was:

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

MiniTheMinx Thu 20-Jun-13 14:06:48

I wonder if prosecuting parents is actually helpful. Some women who come here as adults having been cut themselves do not access medical care or maternity services because they already fear being asked questions and being stigmatised. It maybe that when these women have daughters they are even more loath to access medical care. If parents are prosecuted this sets up a situation where all those suffering from health conditions relating to FGM will not get the medical care they need, either for themselves or their daughters.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 14:11:33

silstrep

I don't want to take this discussion off-topic but as a gov minister I'd really like to know what your thoughts are on mumsnet's bounty campaign? I've read lots this last week from journalists, mums, midwives etc. but not a peep from you, our democratic reps!

Thanks in advance

I think it's a really important campaign. There may well be a time for a new mum to find out what products or services are available to them, but ten minutes after you have a baby isn't it.

As I understand it, each hospital decides for itself who it will or will not allow on its wards, so i think it's important the campaign localised to put pressure on hospitals to think of the welfare of their new mothers as their first priority.

We don't hold any central contracts with Bounty or have any influence over the conduct of their sales reps, but as with all hospital visitors we expect them to respect the privacy of all women and their families.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 14:15:16

MiniTheMinx

I wonder if prosecuting parents is actually helpful. Some women who come here as adults having been cut themselves do not access medical care or maternity services because they already fear being asked questions and being stigmatised. It maybe that when these women have daughters they are even more loath to access medical care. If parents are prosecuted this sets up a situation where all those suffering from health conditions relating to FGM will not get the medical care they need, either for themselves or their daughters.

This is a really important issue because, having talked myself to communities, they have said that if they were asked at every gynaecological examination whether they cut their daughters or who cut them, they would avoid any medical examinations or contact. However, it is clearly equally important to have prosecutions to send out a clear message, which is why in an earlier post, I said that my priority in talking the Met lead on FGM was to find cutters or doctors practicing illegally. And in the end, the answer has to be about behaviour change and whole communities.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 14:18:19

PromQueenWithin

Hello again, do you mind if I repeat my question as I think it may have been missed. Or perhaps it wasn't very interesting blush. Anyway, it was:

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

It's about enabling people from communities to work with their communities, not an outsider wagging a finger. However it is against the laws of this country but more to the point, this is a movement started in Africa where the African Union have called for an end to FGM and 25 African countries have made this illegal. This is about supporting them in their movement but also recognising that we have a job to do with our own diaspora in term of abiding by our laws and helping to support them, but always through members of their own community who want to take this forward.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 14:19:32

The very quick change though in foot-binding in China - to which this campaign is being optimistically compared - was predicated on its not being allowed. In other words, sanctions would follow to the parents as well as to the practitioners.

This has been a really good and thought-provoking web chat.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 14:20:34

Also, prosecutions - as with Saatchi mentioned above - could lead to cautions not prison.

It sends a statement.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 14:21:47

Thank you all so much for your questions, and for MNHQ for having me. I've been chatting to Justine about how Mumsnet can continue to be involved so watch this space!

Lynne x

BIWI Thu 20-Jun-13 14:23:10

I'm sorry I have missed most of this, but skim-reading it looks brilliant. Thank you for your time and for answering so many questions.

Back to the top to read more carefully!

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 20-Jun-13 14:24:30

Thanks Lynne, we will get in contact with the organisations mentioned like Daughters of Eve, FORWARD, Equality Now to see how we can help the campaign going forward. We'll also publish data on where the geographical hotspots for FGM are. It would be great if Mumsnet users in those areas could contact their schools and ask them to show the Hornsey Girls' film on FGM.
Thanks to everyone for the great questions.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 14:24:37

Lynne Please do come back soon. You have been the best web chat host - albeit about such a grim subject - for some time.

And the best politician ever. (Although I also liked Sarah Teather very much.)

MiniTheMinx Thu 20-Jun-13 14:31:49

Thank you Lynne. Off to google how I can support the campaign to end FGM, even if it's just money I can donate.

Really interesting chat, if only more politicians would speak to the people smile I wonder how the world might change if all politicians made a habit of talking to those they represent.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 14:48:31

I would hope that MN might be able to persuade the Treasury (which is not within the remit of Lynne Featherstone, unfortunately) to continue to recognise this work, and fund it long-term; and/or to divert development aid from arms into the protection of girls and the care of women who face or are victims/survivors of FGM.

I was also struck by Lynne F's reference to women's groups in Africa initiating this campaign. Would someone from one of the African women's groups come on MN? That would be really helpful.

scallopsrgreat Thu 20-Jun-13 16:53:19

Thnk you very much Lynne for your time. That was excellent.

MmeLindor Thu 20-Jun-13 18:24:50

Very sorry I missed this webchat, as it was really very interesting. I very much hope that MNHQ will get involved in some way.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 18:27:41

It was very good, MmeLindor, wasn't it? I was lucky to be at home today for a change ['working'], to see it live.

MmeLindor Thu 20-Jun-13 18:39:22

I had a meeting, or I would have taken part.

I met a young girl last year who told me that in her community, it was seen as normal to be cut. She wasn't cut as her parents forbade it, and they had to send her away to her grandparents, to ensure that she didn't sneak out and have it done.

She is very grateful now, but at the time she was angry with her parents.

There is a great project to give girls an alternative right of passage - will look for the link (don't think it was mentioned here)

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 18:53:57

The Law Pages website indicates that there has been a whole decade of not having a single prosecution.

And look at those possible maximum sentences.

Female genital mutilation Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 s.1 14 years
Assisting a girl to mutilate her own genitalia Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 s.2 14 years
Assisting a non-UK person to mutilate overseas a girl's genitalia Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 s.3 14 years

I am glad Lynne Featherstone is getting this further up the agenda, in an intelligent way.

JacqueslePeacock Thu 20-Jun-13 20:48:35

Really fascinating and important web chat. I'm sad I missed it. Let's have more like this.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 21:27:20

Jacques Yes I hope so, too.

YoniMatopoeia Fri 21-Jun-13 11:42:48

I WOULD like to thank Lynne for one of the best and most informative.web chats I have ever seen on here.

Well done

Brilliant web chat by a minister who really seemed to know her stuff and feel passionately about the issue.
How annoying that I had to work when this was on.
I have already heard a bit about the work being done to support ending this practice but am going to find out more.
Thank you! More like this please.

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