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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


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.


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


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


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
Amnesty International END FGM European Campaign

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?


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


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


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


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


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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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


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


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


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.

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