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Anti-FGM Bill Spells More Work for UK Politicians

Parliament Member Christopher Chope’s objection to an anti-FGM (female genital mutilation) bill in the United Kingdom has him facing extreme backlash from fellow politicians as well as UK citizens.

The proposed bill would have allowed courts to make interim care orders (able to be made by the court prior to an official hearing) as protection for children who are believed to be at risk of FGM. The bill had already been cleared by the House of Lords, but it only takes one objection to a private member’s bill that hasn’t been debated to block its further progress.

While fellow Conservative members call Chope’s decision “appalling,” he stands by his objection of the bill citing it as a matter of principle.

Chope has a history of objecting bills that have yet to be debated, suggesting that all bills should be fully discussed before they are brought to Parliament. Chope previously objected to a bill related to upskirting, another measure aimed at protecting women.

Part of the outrage in response to Chope’s decision is because cases of FGM in UK infants have recently increased. In some cases, girls were less than one month old when the procedure was performed. Current FGM laws across the UK are not specific to infants, which creates a loophole for some communities that still perform FGM.

Emergency services in the UK received 939 calls about FGM between 2014 and 2018, but the Crown Protective Service has only received 36 referrals from police cases.

This anti-FGM bill would also help clarify when child services would be allowed to intervene, as doctors are not always reporting cases to the police, officers aren’t trained in proper protocol, and there are worries about cultural sensitivity.

Victims of FGM are traumatized by this event, which is often described as a “special party,” so as not to scare the child. Hibo Wadere, a survivor of FGM, says of the experience: “it stays with you for life. It’s a life sentence.”

With an estimated 137,000 women and girls becoming victims of FGM in the UK, this bill could greatly increase the safety of women in the country.

The National FGM Centre in the UK still believes that the key to preventing this kind of child abuse is to change the views of communities where FGM is commonly practiced.

Nearby countries, such as France, have developed stricter laws to protect their female citizens from female genital mutilation. French lawyer Linda Weil-Curiel, whose work has contributed to over 100 FGM convictions in France, believes it is imperative that the UK follow their lead.

She says, “In the UK system you need the victim to come and complain, but how can you expect a child to complain against her parents? It’s for society to protect children, to take the initiative as soon as mutilation is documented and the only way that happens is to have a medical examination.”

The public’s outcry, following MP Chope’s objection, will hopefully open officials’ eyes to the pressing need for laws that can protect women and girls from the horrors of this practice.

Featured Image by Chris McAndrew on Wikimedia
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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