Articles on Shifting Sands
Tory leadership and PM hopefuls’ views on FGM
Tory leadership and prime ministerial (PM) hopefuls, Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson were recently asked their views about abortion rights, equal pay, FGM and whether they really are feminists.
The questions asked about FGM was ‘What have you done to protect women from FGM? Will this be a focus of yours as PM?’
Their responses were boringly predictable. Unsurprisingly perhaps, neither of them acknowledged that the problem is largely a manufactured one in the UK and a diminishing one worldwide, but that the growing, international FGM ‘industry’ which the UK helps fund, benefits most through self promotion and maintenance.
FGM is one of the most extreme manifestations of gender inequality. It is a human rights violation that can result in a lifetime of physical, psychological and emotional suffering.
Protecting women from FGM is of vital importance to this country and the values it represents.
The UK is proud to support and accelerate the Africa-led movement to end FGM. Indeed, under my leadership, the FCO created a £50m UK aid package – the biggest single investment worldwide to date by any international donor – to tackle this issue across the most-affected countries in Africa.
We are making progress. Today a girl is about one-third less likely to be cut than 30 years ago. But we have reached a critical juncture – global efforts need to go further and faster because population growth means that if progress is not accelerated, the number of girls undergoing FGM will increase.
As Prime Minister, I will ensure that FGM continues to be a key focus and I pledge my support for initiatives and fundraising projects working directly with communities, grassroots campaigners and supporting doctors, nurses and midwife to end FGM and care for survivors.
Johnson’s team provided background information on his views and record only.
‘Boris demonstrated his commitment to delivering on women’s issues as Mayor of London. One of his priorities was a strategy to eliminate violence against women. He set out a bold agenda to combat the evils of FGM, improve support services for victims of sexual and domestic abuse and to improve access to the justice system.
As Foreign Secretary, he championed education for girls – committing £212million in UK aid money to help one million vulnerable girls across the Commonwealth receive 12 years of quality education by 2030.’
Fortunately, I can supply additional information.
Johnson was London’s Mayor from 2008 – 2016 and instigated the work that I reviewed in a piece entitled London’s Mayor pays half a million to do women with FGM a dis-service.
This was based on my analysis of a commissioned research report The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime Female Genital Mutilation Early Intervention Model: An Evaluation (MOPAC FGM EIM). It covered some of his time in office and was published January 2017.
We were told the work aimed ‘to implement and refine an effective strategy to prevent new cases of FGM among women and girls, while supporting those affected by FGM’.
Health and social service professionals and community organisations were brought together ‘to co-construct an effective and sustainable intervention delivering support to women who have undergone FGM and safeguarding those at risk of FGM.’
Having considered the report’s meagre findings, I disagreed with the recommendation of an ongoing need for that type of service, suggesting it benefited professionals (and researchers) more than targeted women and families. And recommended that spending £0.5M million was not a good use of public funds, because:
– Only 237 women were seen and their FGM status was not even reported
– Trusted community workers are being used to normalise official involvement in families lives
– Midwives’ professional judgement is being compromised
– Mothers, when not considered guilty of planning to have daughters cut, have suspicion about others’ intent sown
– Therapy is almost compulsory
– An additional £53,750 was spent in engaging men
My piece and others critical of the ‘industry’ can be accessed in full here.
Update: The research referred to above underpinned the need for the eight new FGM ‘one stop shop’ clinics launched by the NHS 12 September 2019. The new clinic network, in Birmingham, Bristol, London and Leeds aims to reach more than 1,300 over 18s before they are pregnant with a range of services, all under one roof.
About the Author - Bríd Hehir
Bríd is a retired health professional. She started her career as a nurse and midwife in Africa where she worked for almost four years. She encountered FGM/C in Ethiopia. She then moved to London where she worked in the National Health Service as a midwife, community nurse, health visitor, reproductive and sexual health nurse and manager over a period of 30 years. She did not encounter FGM/C during that time despite working with immigrant communities who are reported to practice it still. She is puzzled by the current reported prevalence of the practice, the official response and associated activism. And is worried that they might cause more harm than good.