If an African girl wanted FGM we would be outraged, and rightly so. Why would we cut girls to control their sexuality and satisfy men? We can all agree on this. Yet when a girl from a non-FGM practicing community wants to be cut, trimmed or tucked we're told it's her choice. Aren't both examples of cultural coercion? Are we saying one happens to adults and the other to children? To some extend, that's true. But there are nine-year old girls, accompanied by their mothers, asking for cosmetic surgery on the NHS. Girls with normal genitals. Confused? Me too.
It's a sad fact that violent abuse is more often than not suffered behind the closed doors of the family home, indeed HALF of all women who die from homicide are killed by a current or former partner... This has got to stop, and yes, we do have the power to help our sisters through education and support.
So why, despite all the talk and the years of work, is FGM being ignored by the UK government? Why is it not discussed in the same way any other form of child abuse is? After 11 years I have come to this conclusion: We, the British, refuse to engage in conversation on race, sex and gender; our inherent conservatism gets in the way of having an honest discussion on this subject. Because FGM only affects women and girls, it's practiced to control female sexuality and primarily affects black children, it's not to be discussed.
Was it to do with the control of women's and girls' bodies? Was it an older generation demonstrating that they had the ability to show authority, to violate their young? Was it about traumatised women visiting the same pain on girls, using custom as an excuse, in some subconsciously re-enacted cycle of abuse?
The basic human rights of children must always over-ride the 'cultural' sensitivities of adults. Until nations everywhere perceive FGM not as a custom, but rather as an epidemic which must be addressed by governments as well as community workers, it will continue to blight the lives of millions. Whole communities over generations suffer because of it.
This is not simply an abhorrent 'foreign' custom, beyond the understanding of 'Western' values, there are some 66,000 women living with the consequences of FGM in the UK, but another 22,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of it here each year, with that number increasing. And it doesn't end there. Women are actually being sent to the UK to be mutilated.
"I wanted to save lives not put them at risk." That's what a former female genital cutter told me during a visit to Kenya this week, as she explained why she downed her tools and instead became a birth attendant. I believe this woman should be celebrated for taking such a brave stance against the centuries-old tradition of female genital mutilation. And she's not alone.
The school summer holidays are fast approaching. Many children and young people in these last few days of the academic year will be eagerly anticipating six weeks of carefree fun with their families and friends. But for some girls this year's summer break will mean leaving the UK to have their external genitals cut away or severely injured as part of a tradition practised in at least 28 countries world-wide.
More than 70 women and girls in the UK are seeking treatment every month for problems linked to female genital mutilation. According to the NSPCC, ...
This week a beautiful little blonde and blue-eyed English girl was horrifically sexually mutilated - by her parents. She will be scarred for life both physically and mentally. She could have died in the attack. This was not a lone assault, however. Such ritualistic violence against children happen on average EVERY week among a particular cult in Britain.
Dealing with gender inequality starts with tackling the root causes of all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) such as female genital mutilation (FGM). As long as these inequalities are not dealt with, the participation and empowerment of girls is not possible and the eradication of poverty remains a dream, where half of society is harmed for the [supposed] benefit of the remainder.
A fortnight ago I announced that the UK, through the Department for International Development, would throw its weight behind the global movement to finally bring an end Female Genital Cutting (FGC). Momentum is building and I firmly believe we have a chance to end the practice within a generation...
The UK has a duty to get behind this momentum and do all we can to keep it going. We owe it to the millions of girls who are at risk of being cut every year. And this is why the UK, through the Department for International Development, will this year become the largest single investor in ending female genital cutting.