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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.


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

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 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

StealthPolarBear Wed 19-Jun-13 17:44:10

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.

LittleSporksBigSpork Wed 19-Jun-13 19:05:40

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.

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