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Archive for February, 2018

For three decades, FGM has been illegal in the UK. Why have there still been no prosecutions?

Detective Chief Inspector Leanne Pook clearly remembers when she was first seized with an absolute determination to help stop the scourge of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Britain.

After dedicating much of her career to child protection in Avon and Somerset, she’d been tasked with leading work in the region not only to prevent British women and girls being cut – but also to bring the perpetrators to justice.

She’d attended an event at Bristol University, along with 400 other people – when a 15 year old boy, Mukhtar Hassan, stood up and addressed the audience passionately. Why, he asked, was he, as a boy, concerned about FGM? His answer, DCI Pook recalls, was simple: “He said, ‘I may be a…

UK FGM trial: father says failed case put intolerable pressure on him

A father cleared of allowing his six-year-old daughter to undergo female genital mutilation has said the failed prosecution put intolerable pressure on him and his family.

The man described the evidence against him as unsatisfactory and claimed the police and Crown Prosecution Service had important lessons to learn.

A judge at Bristol crown court halted the trial of the 29-year-old when he ruled that he had no case to answer.

On Friday the father’s legal team, Elite Solicitors in Bristol, released a statement on his behalf expressing relief and anger.

It said: “Female genital mutilation (FGM) is rightly illegal in the UK. Our client consistently denied the allegation that he exposed his daughter to any form of FGM.

“He welcomes the not guilty verdict following the legal ruling there was no case for him to answer. The evidence was wholly unsatisfactory.

“Our client hopes that those involved in bringing this prosecution will learn important lessons from this case. The investigation by the police began in 2016. It has placed an intolerable pressure upon him and his family. He wishes to thank his wife and the wider community for their support throughout. He is very pleased the proceedings are finally over.”

‘I still feel the pain sometimes’ says FGM victim

IT will make me a woman, I remember them saying that.” More than two decades later, the woman, who does not wish to be named, recalls the trauma of undergoing female genital mutilation as a child in Nigeria, where about 20 million women and girls are estimated to have undergone the abuse.

Aged just six, she was pinned to her bed by her mother and aunt while another aunt used a blade to cut her.

“I was only six-years-old and my mum came into my room that morning and she was extraordinarily nice,” she says. “She was telling me that she would take me to the park and take me shopping to buy new clothes. I could only wonder what I had done overnight to be so fantastic. I thought to myself maybe it’s my lucky day.

“She said you will have all this on one condition, if you do what I ask you. I said yes.

“Later two of my aunts came into the house and my mum came into my room. Somehow I was now in a panic about what she wants me to do. She said there was something in my vagina that needs to be removed so that in the future my husband would be proud of me. I didn’t really understand.

“I was really getting scared now. It will make me a woman, I remember they said that. They made me lie down and my mum held my legs and one of my aunts held my two hands and the other aunt cut me with a sharp blade.”

She adds: “I cried and cried and I was bleeding. She put this black mixture on me and there was even more pain and the bleeding didn’t stop.”

Eventually after two weeks of pain and depression, she was taken to hospital but was sent back home. “They said if this is female genital mutilation to go home because it’s something that happens to everyone,” she adds.

After moving to Middlesbrough ten years ago, the FGM victim has been seeking help in understanding what happened to her through the Halo Project, in Middlesbrough, which helps FGM victims, and women at risk of honour-based violence.

She says: “I still feel that pain sometimes. I had post traumatic stress disorder. I’m still coping with it now. I was on the verge of suicide because of the depression.

“I can’t block out that memory of that experience or the consequences.

“I lost relationships because at the point I felt so different. That’s why I went to the Halo project which is when I started to get some more awareness of what had happened to me.

“They could put a definition to what had happened. I went on a six week course and it has changed my life.”

Speaking ahead of the UN’s day of zero tolerance towards FGM, she adds: “I want to share my story to create awareness that FGM does no good in any way. Mentally, physically, emotionally, medically – it does no good, only harm. It’s an abuse. I was a victim but thanks to Halo I’m a survivor.”

SHE is one of around 137,000 women living in the UK thought to be affected by FGM, with a further 20,000 girls at risk. In the UK, figures from the NHS’s digital data service suggest that last year there were 1,060 newly recorded cases of FGM in England, with 265 reported in the North.

In the North-East, 20 FGM Protection Orders have been made since 2015.

Noreen Riaz, from the Halo Project, says: “We know there are 28 affected communities and there’s a large number of people living in the UK affected by this.

“We have evidence that some girls are flown to countries where it happens. We’ve also heard of cutters being flown into the UK.

“Girls at risk can be infants, right up to the age where they are getting married. In different communities and different countries the processes differ.

“It doesn’t excuse it but people think their children will be ostracised if they don’t do it. FGM is a child abuse. It’s a violation of human rights.”

Agencies in the North-East are working together to try and encourage more victims and potential victims to come forward.

Global event calling for end to FGM to start here

A worldwide social media campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM) is being launched in Dublin tomorrow with the backing of the #MeToo movement.

The event will be led by Ifrah Ahmed (29), who was born in Somalia and survived the barbaric practice.

She is now living in Dublin and helped organise this week’s demonstration, which is supported by celebrities including singer Imelda May.

Activists aim to mark zero tolerance day for FGM with a million #MeToo sexual harassment campaigners using the hashtag #MeTooFGM to indicate their support.

Speaking at the launch of the National Plan of Action, Ms Ahmed said: “FGM is the ultimate form of violence against women and female children…the forcible removal of a child’s sexual organs to control her sexuality has been going on since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs.

“We are calling on all women everywhere who care about women’s rights to support their sisters in 30 countries across the world to call for an end to FGM.”

Sharia law review recommends civil marriage requirement for Muslim couples

Muslim couples should be legally required to have a civil marriage in addition to an Islamic ceremony, a government-ordered review of Sharia law has concluded.

The measure would mean more women had protection under family law and would face “less discriminatory practices”, according to the independent assessment.

It also called for regulation of Sharia councils, which deal with aspects of Islamic law, but the proposal was immediately dismissed by the Government.

As home secretary, Theresa May launched the review to explore whether Sharia law was being misused or applied in a way that was incompatible with domestic law in England and Wales.

A report detailing the findings published on Thursday said the vast majority of people using Sharia councils were women seeking an Islamic divorce.

Examples of “bad practice” included inappropriate questioning on personal relationship matters and women being invited to make concessions to their husbands in order to secure a divorce.

In one instance a forced marriage victim was asked to attend a council at the same time as her family, according to the report.