FGM and disability also hinder girls’ education

Your sponsored roundtable on educating girls (Society, 4 October) is to be commended both for laying bare the critical need to address this issue in general, and for acknowledging the complications and taboos around menstruation as a severe obstacle to progress. It is difficult to understand, however, why the painful topic of female genital mutilation was not also a focus of discussion. One required element in some communities of the lengthy initiation ceremonies to “adulthood” mentioned is that girls must undergo FGM. This cruel initiation, often at or just before puberty, is the marker by which potential husbands (often already owners of other wives) are in traditional thinking assured of their soon-to-be purchased wife’s virginity. Raising a girl and paying for her FGM is expensive – ceremonies are often held around harvest time when there’s more money – and bride price is increased if the girl-woman is “pure”.

Until girls are no longer perceived as chattels for exchange on the open market, the practices of FGM and early “marriage” (child rape) will continue. As your commentators acknowledge, FGM and early marriage will only be abandoned once men and women alike see these practices as patriarchy incarnate, the literal imposition of men’s power on female bodies. Assumed patriarchal entitlement remains to be challenged in many parts of the world, but nowhere more than in places where its imposition actually precludes young women even receiving an education which will empower both them personally and their wider communities.


Latest figures reveal more than 40 million people are living in slavery

Forced marriage is included for first time in worldwide statistics that show ‘money and debt’ to be at the heart of the exploitation

An estimated 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016, a quarter of them children, according to new global slavery statistics released today.

The figures, from the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, show 24.9 million people across the world were trapped in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage last year. Children account for 10 million of the overall 40.3m total.

The 2017 Estimates of Modern Slavery report calculates that of 24.9 million victims of forced labour, 16 million are thought to be in the private economy, 4.8 million in forced sexual exploitation and 4.1 million in state-sponsored forced labour including mandatory military conscription and agricultural work.

“What is startling about these new estimates is the sheer scale of the modern slave trade and the fact that we have 40 million people across the world in some form of modern slavery is simply not acceptable,” said Fiona David, executive director of global research at the Walk Free Foundation.


Girl, 13, ‘one of India’s youngest honour killing victims’ after being ‘beaten to death and set on fire’

A 13-year-old girl is believed to have become one of India’syoungest ever “honour killing” victims after her father allegedly beat her head against a wall and set her on fire because he saw her talking to a boy.

The teenager was beaten and strangled by her father before he set fire to the body and tried to pass off her death as suicide, police in the Nalgonda district of southern India, said.

The girl’s father had noticed his daughter frequently talking to a boy in the Chintapally village where they lived.

He lashed out and killed her on September 15 after he saw her talking to the boy again, hitting her head against a wall before strangling her, police said.

Her mother is then believed to have helped set fire to the body so the parents could make out their daughter’s death was suicide.


Why forced marriage?

What is the connection between forced marriage and slavery? At its core, slavery involves treating people as if they are property

When I was thirteen, even though I didn’t realise it at the time, I was incredibly lucky to be ‘suffering’ through high school and working at the local burger joint on weekends.

Not all girls are this fortunate.

Consider Shahida’s situation.

When Shahida was 13, her father arranged for her to marry a 45-year-old man who had promised her family money in exchange.

She was very unhappy with her husband but endured life with him for a year before running back to her home. Her father was very angry. He beat her and yelled at her to go back to her marriage, but Shahida thought that even this was not as bad as life with her husband. When she refused to return, her father dug a deep hole in the ground. He forced her into it and began covering her.

Shahida still wonders if he really would have buried her alive if the neighbours hadn’t heard her screaming and stopped him.

What is the connection between forced marriage and slavery? At its core, slavery involves treating people as if they are property. What can you do if you own a car or a mobile phone? You can drive it, you can sell it, give it away, trade it in, take it to the rubbish dump if you choose.

Shahida’s experience illustrates the connection between slavery and forced marriage only too well. Being traded for money like a piece of property. Forced to have sex with no regard to your health, physical or psychological, or other wants or needed. Being brutally threatened to be buried alive when you try to leave.


Police are ‘determined’ to bring country’s first prosecution for female genital mutilation as they launch campaign to protect children coming from abroad

Police are targeting Eurostar terminals to protect children from female genital mutilation (FGM) as officers say they are ‘absolutely determined’ to obtain the first successful prosecution for the crime since it was outlawed over 30 years ago.

Inspector Allen Davis, from Scotland Yard’s sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command, said it was ‘really important’ to show the practice, made illegal in 1985, is not tolerated.

A police operation to protect children from practices including FGM, forced marriage, breast ironing and child abuse linked to beliefs focused on Eurostar terminal in London and Kent today.

Difficulties getting people to report FGM and testify against family members is one of a ‘number of reasons’ nobody has yet been convicted, Mr Davis said at St Pancras.

‘We are absolutely determined to obtain a successful prosecution,’ he said.


FGM is violence, child abuse and sexual assault” – Leyla Hussein

“FGM is violence, child abuse and sexual assault  …and of course we handed out Vulva cupcakes” is not a phrase you hear every day. But of course, it isn’t every day you speak to Leyla Hussein.

Leyla has been at the forefront of the fight against female genital mutilation (FGM) for over a decade. Her willingness to talk candidly – and at times even humerously– about her experiences has played a key role in challenging the culture of silence around FGM.

Leyla’s campaigning has taken many forms from fronting TV documentaries, to founding therapeutic services for survivors, to lobbying parliament At the heart of all of her work, however, is an acute understanding of the physical and psychological impact of FGM; an understanding rooted both in her personal experiences and her psychotherapeutic training.

Lewis Garland spoke to Leyla about her path into activism, the progress being made in the fight against FGM and the difficulties, from threats of violence to the impact of austerity, faced by those on the frontline.

What was your path to becoming an anti-FGM activist?

“I never planned to become an activist. I was cut when I was seven years old but it wasn’t until many years later that I began to question the practice. The catalyst was when I had my daughter. I found the whole process very traumatic but no one seemed to understand why. Then an amazing and brave health professional asked if I had had FGM and supported me in a way no one else had before. I am naturally curious and started asking why this had happened to me and why so many girls are being cut. My activism comes from this curiosity and my fierce determination to protect my daughter.”

“FGM is violence, child abuse and sexual assault” – Leyla Hussein

Parents deny breaching forced marriage order after trying to take children out of UK

Two parents have denied trying to take their children out of the country in the face of a court order.

The man and woman from Teesside, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded not guilty to four charges at Teesside Crown Court today.

They are accused of breaching a forced marriage protection order by trying to take their children out of the country.

They deny flouting the order by “attempting to remove (the children) from the jurisdiction of England and Wales” more than a year ago.

They were stopped at the departure gate at Newcastle Airport on August 5 last year.

It is alleged they tried to board a flight to Dubai with their children aged four to 15, with a connection flight booked to Islamabad in Pakistan.

The forced marriage protection order was imposed at Middlesbrough County Court in January 2016.

Such orders are imposed to prevent forced marriages or protect people in a forced marriage.



Rape, forced marriage and mutilation – women tell their harrowing stories to Home Secretary

Amber Rudd visited The Halo Project which supports victims of forced marriage, FGM and domestic abuse.

Survivors of domestic abuse and forced marriage told their harrowing stories to one of the UK’s most senior politicians.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd visited charity The Halo Project, which supports victims of forced marriage, domestic abuse , honour based violence and female genital mutilation.

She was there to find out how the Home Office could further support the project and combat extremism.

Mrs Rudd spent around an hour with the charity in central Middlesbrough and heard some inspiring and shocking stories from survivors.

One woman, who did not want to be named, spoke of her journey from her native Nigeria to Middlesbrough.

She said: “I was on the verge of committing suicide.

“I was a victim of domestic violence and I was forced to marry someone.

“I tried to run from my life because it was the only way I could get myself out.


How a nod betrayed dad’s guilt over honour killing of Shafilea Ahmed while his “brutal” wife silently controlled their deception

t was a heartbreaking moment – a mother and father being forced to deny on television that they had anything to do with the disappearance and murder of their 17-year-old daughter.

As they were repeatedly asked about the disappearance of Shafilea Ahmed , Iftikhar and Farzana wiped away tears and resolutely told television cameras they were being victimised and stereotyped because of their religion.

And asked again during a television interview, if they had killed their teenage daughter, Iftikharreplied with an emphatic ‘never’ as his wife sat there silent, presumably overcome by the grief of losing her eldest child.

But there was one problem. As he protested their innocence on camera there was something Iftikhar could not hide – an almost imperceptible nod as he said “never” – his body language betraying the truth he and his wife had worked so hard to hide.

And while Farzana sat silently, motionless, her arms folded and her face impassive, even she could not control every movement. A sideways glance at her husband as he answered the question ‘did you kill her?’ has led to the claim that she may have been the “architect” of their years of deception, by experts analysing their words and movements for the next episode of Faking It: Tears of a Crime on Investigation Discovery.


Forced marriage law is failing

Only one in 30 suspected forced marriages in England is leading to a prosecution.

In the past seven years 8,170 cases of suspected forced marriages were identified by the government’s forced marriage unit. There have only been 395 referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service since 2010, however, of which 268 prosecutions were completed, according to the CPS’s violence against women and girls reports.

During the same period, about 1,250 forced marriage protection orders were issued to protect girls and women at risk, and assist with repatriating victims. Last year 246 were issued, up from 217 in 2015.


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