Labour MEPs: Ratification of Istanbul Convention will aid fight against FGM

The UK must ratify the Istanbul Convention without further delay to ensure authorities have the powers they need to fight FGM, Labour MEPs warned yesterday, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

MEPs will vote today for a resolution calling on the EU and all national governments to ratify the convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which requires countries to criminalise all forms of violence against women, including stalking, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced abortion and sterilisation. The resolution also calls for greater cooperation between countries, and, given the lack of enforcement of current laws and risible number of convictions, calls for the Commission to facilitate targeted training to aid detection, investigation and prosecution of FGM, and for authorities to be more vigilant when cases are brought to their attention.

Ahead of the vote, EU gender equality commissioner Věra Jourová told MEPs the EU has put laws in place to ensure that there can be no impunity in Europe for FGM and that it is a crime in all EU countries. She added that the EU, working with the United Nations, has launched an unprecedented initiative – the Spotlight Initiative – to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

Mary Honeyball MEP, Labour’s European Parliament spokesperson on women’s rights and gender equality, said:

“Female genital mutilation is one of the worst crimes imaginable. It is awful, terrible, horrible abuse of women and girls. Unimaginable. Unthinkable that it is still taking place in 2018. In our country. On our continent. Anywhere in the world.

“Two hundred million girls are still suffering from this violation, which occurs in all parts of the world, and it is estimated 200 million more girls are at risk of undergoing FGM by 2030. In the UK, 137,000 women and girls have been affected in England and Wales. These figures are staggering, and highlight the scale of the challenge facing national and global authorities in eradicating this barbaric practice.

“Laws already exist in Britain and throughout the EU, but more needs to be done to enforce them – to date there has not been a single successful prosecution for FGM in the UK. Ratifying the Istanbul Convention will aid the fight against FGM, and having signed the convention six years ago, the UK government must ratify it without delay.”

Julie Ward MEP, substitute member of the women’s rights and gender equality committee, told the European Parliament debate:

“Hibo Wardere is a Somalia-born British woman. Aged six years old she was subjected to type 3 FGM, the most extreme form of cutting. Fahma Mohamed is a Bristol teenager who together with her friends and teacher famously worked with Integrate UK to take a stance against FGM by singing and rapping.

“I am proud of these women and others in my country who have overcome the stigma and taboo of FGM, and campaign to end the practice whilst also fighting racism and Islamophobia.

“FGM is practiced in many countries, including inside Europe. In the UK, many girls are at risk of falling victim of mutilation. It is time the EU and its member states embrace a real and viable strategy to end FGM on their own territory and therefore the ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention is our best hope.

“We must join up the dots and understand the reasons for all forms of violence against women and girls.”