Campaigner Leyla Hussein on why FGM is a British problem too

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Psychotherapist and campaigner Leyla Hussein is on the couch. “If this could speak, it would tell some stories.” Limbs crossed nimbly, Hussein leans into the brown suede: “I’ve cried on this; I came up with the idea for my counselling service; I crashed here after a day filming an FGM documentary.” Like many of the things in Hussein’s two-bedroom east London flat, the sofa is both a comfort and a repository for some of the past’s most testing moments. Somali-British and a “survivor” of female genital mutilation (FGM), Hussein, 37, has led a campaign since the early 2000s lobbying the UK government and raising public awareness. “I guess I’ve become the black, Muslim, feminist woman who writes and talks about sex and patriarchy — which is quite a rare thing.”

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The flat is a literal “haven” for Hussein, who was moved there in 2006 (the third time in two years) after receiving threats of violence related to her work. “I had been campaigning for four years and started calling FGM child abuse — people didn’t like that. I was physically attacked in the streets.” In the media, Hussein is a one-issue campaigner. But she is impatient with this compartmentalisation: “The issue is much broader; it’s about girls being told their bodies are not good enough.” She says the media want to define FGM as “what black and Asian people do” rather than a practice that encompasses intimate cosmetic surgery and extreme gynaecological procedures that were carried out on some British women into the 20th century.

Celine Dookhran trial: Woman given ’10 minutes to live’

A woman who survived an alleged attack by an accused rapist and murderer has described what she thought would be her last moments alive.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told a court how Mujahid Arshid, 33, raped her then slashed her neck and wrists with a knife before telling her she had 10 minutes to live.

Mr Arshid is also accused of raping and murdering 20-year-old Celine Dookhran.

He denies all charges.

Ms Dookhran’s body was found “stuffed” inside a chest-high freezer in July 2017 in an empty house in Kingston, south London.

On day three of the trial, the Old Bailey was played a video interview the surviving woman gave from her hospital bed to detectives two days after the attack.

Jurors heard how both women “tried to relate” to Mr Arshid before he took Ms Dookhran, his niece, upstairs.

The woman, in her 20s, described hearing screaming and thudding, before eventually “there was no more noise.”

When the alleged killer emerged he said Ms Dookhran was “sleeping upstairs,” jurors heard.

‘There was blood everywhere’: Survivor among hundreds stopped in FGM crackdown at Heathrow Airport

Exclusive: At least 14,250 women and girls living in the UK have undergone FGM

“It was painful, so painful, there was blood everywhere,” Yeabu recalls. “There were other people watching in the room. They were singing their own songs. They were happy when they were cutting me.”

Yeabu* was 16 when her parents sent her to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) in Sierra Leone, telling her afterwards: “You’ve become a proper woman now.”

She says she remembers knowing what was going to happen to her, but was too frightened to fight after seeing other children held down while fighting and biting the cutters.

“As a young girl you have to do it because for them it’s decency,” she explains. “When you’re with your man you are clean if you do that, that’s the mentality.

“I was frightened but we don’t disrespect our people. I they say that’s part of our tradition we have to go through it, but it’s not something I wanted.”

Couple admit illegally trying to take their children abroad after being caught at airport

Two parents have admitted trying to taking their children out of the UK in the face of a court order.

The man and woman from Teesside, who cannot be named for legal reasons, previously denied four charges of flouting a forced marriage protection order.

They were to stand trial at Teesside Crown Court this week.

But after lengthy discussions behind the scenes and a judge’s indication that the pair would not be jailed, they pleaded guilty.

The couple admitted breaching the order by “attempting to remove (the children) from the jurisdiction of England and Wales”.

They were stopped at the departure gate at Newcastle Airport on August 5, 2016.

It was 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.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, told them at an earlier hearing: “The prosecution case is that you knew perfectly well that you were not to take the children out of the country, for their safety, for their welfare.”

This week, the court heard the couple’s claims that they misunderstood or were misguided, thinking a social worker had indicated that it would be OK to take the children on holiday.

‘We say, time’s up!’ Who were the activists at the Golden Globes?

Marai Larasi


“It felt profoundly meaningful to attend the Golden Globes alongside other inspirational activists and organisers fighting for equality for all women. So often in this work, women who have been marginalised in our societies are spoken ‘for’ and ‘about’, but we are rarely handed the microphone and invited to share our own narratives. Standing with women like Emma Watson, who work in Hollywood, and who have chosen to use platforms such as the Golden Globes to connect, to resist and to amplify, was uplifting.

“At Imkaan, we hold two decades of experience of working around issues such as domestic violence, forced marriage and ‘honour-based’ violence. We know that the struggle to end violence against women and girls must be rooted in an environment that attends to the impact of issues such as racism, economic inequality and immigration controls. We are mindful that this is a critical moment, where a clear message is being sent to survivors of violence: we see and hear you, we believe you, we support you. We are you. We say: time’s up!”

Larasi is the executive director of Imkaan, a UK-based, black feminist organisation that works to respond to and prevent violence against marginalised women and girls. She is also co-chair of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, and a partner in the EU/UN Women programme “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds”, which aims to end violence against women in the Western Balkans and Turkey.

Freed to kill again – and again: Theodore Johnson and the truth about domestic violence

Theodore Johnson first killed a woman in 1981. He tipped his wife Yvonne over the balcony of their ninth-floor flat in Blakenhall Gardens, Wolverhampton, having already hit her with a vase. Well, they had been arguing – a factor that enabled him to plead guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of provocation. The second woman Johnson killed was Yvonne Bennett, in 1992. He strangled her with a belt while their baby slept. Her “provocation” was that she refused the box of chocolates he had bought to win her back; he was able to plead diminished responsibility and, after a two-year stay in a secure psychiatric unit, was released and again free to form new relationships. Then, in December 2016, Angela Best became the third victim of Johnson, 64, and on Friday he will be sentenced for her murder. Best’s spur to his violence had simply been to end their relationship and start a new one with someone else.

ohnson’s case seems extraordinary. How could it happen? A list of victims, a history of violent and controlling behaviour in relationships … yet twice he was freed to kill again. Somehow, Johnson slipped through the system. Or was the problem that the system failed to take proper account of Johnson, of his capacity to kill, and as a result failed to take care of the women he went on to meet?

Sue Mountstevens to represent PCCs nationally on work to tackle ‘honour’-based abuse

Raising awareness of and tackling so-called ‘honour’ crimes will be the focus of Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens, in representing PCCs nationally on honour-based abuse, forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM).

Throughout her time as PCC, Ms Mountstevens has been a fierce advocate for survivors of FGM and was asked to submit evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee for their ‘FGM:  The case for a national action plan’.  The PCC will now expand on this work by bringing new focus to tackling ‘honour’ crimes, including forced marriage.

Honour-based abuse (HBA) is any practice used to control behaviour within families to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or ‘honour’. It is a violation of human rights and is a serious crime.

Examples of HBA includes intimidation, rape, assault, abduction, domestic abuse, physical, sexual, financial, emotional or psychological abuse, forced marriage (FM) – where you’re not given a choice if you want to marry a person – and murder.

PCC Sue Mountstevens said: “’Honour’-based abuse and forced marriage is a particularly difficult crime to tackle as it tends to happen behind closed doors and victims are terrified of coming forward.  Victims often worry about what will happen to their family if they disclose the abuse they’re suffering and many don’t want to see their families prosecuted.”

On behalf of PCCs across the country, Ms Mountstevens will act as a voice for victims and survivors, aiming to raise awareness of HBA, working closely with national partners to ensure freedom of choice remains a protected entity.

This work will aim to inform the PCC when joining representatives from across the country, at regular meetings of the So Called ‘Honour’-Based Violence Roundtable, hosted by the Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Sarah Newton MP.

Drop in number of new FGM cases reported could be misleading, charity warns

Fears of having children taken into care may be driving a recent drop in the number of women and girls who have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) identified by the NHS, a charity has warned.

NHS Digital figures published this week show that the number of new cases of FGM reported by the NHS between July and September has fallen by a third since reporting first started in April 2015.

The latest figures show 1,060 women were identified in the NHS as having experienced FGM, also known as female circumcision or “cutting”, down from 1,570 in the first quarter of reporting.

‘FGM risk’ Sheffield woman and child must stay in UK

A woman and child have been banned from travelling abroad, to avoid the risk of female genital mutilation (FGM).

On Thursday, Sheffield Family Court gave police the go-ahead to issue FGM protection orders to protect “a victim and a potential victim”.

A total of eight FGM protection orders have been granted to South Yorkshire Police since they were introduced in 2015.

Police said the two had been identified during an ongoing investigation.

The orders allow police to “prevent them from being taken out of the UK and into a situation where they could be at greater risk”, a South Yorkshire Police spokesperson said.

FGM, also termed female circumcision, is illegal in the UK and carries a sentence of up to 14 years in jail.

The term refers to any procedure that alters or injures the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Det Sgt Suzanne Jackson, of South Yorkshire Police, said: “The effectiveness of these orders has enabled us to safeguard victims and potential victims, and further prevent the detrimental and devastating long-term effect they could and may have been subjected to.”

Biggest issues facing women today will be centre stage at this weekend’s WOW Festival

A FESTIVAL reflecting some of the most pressing women’s issues of today will take place in Bradford this weekend.

The Women of the World Festival will celebrate successes of women from all walks of life, as well as tackling issues like domestic abuse, body identity and honour-based violence.

Held at Kala Sangam arts centre on Saturday and Sunday, the festival is returning to Bradford after a successful debut last year.

Like last year, the line-up has been shaped by women from Bradford, including teens from Bradford’s schools known as the Wowsers.

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