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Female Genital Mutilation

Volume 558: debated on Monday 11 February 2013

Female genital mutilation is an abhorrent form of child abuse which this Government are committed to eradicating. Across Government we have taken a number of actions, including piloting the declaration against female genital mutilation, issuing guidelines to front-line practitioners and providing funding to support communities to tackle FGM themselves. These actions help raise awareness of the issue, change attitudes, strengthen the legal response and support victims.

I thank the Home Secretary for that answer. As she knows, most of the data we use in the UK are based on a 2007 study. The Dutch Government recently issued an up-to-date prevalence study, based on methodology developed at a workshop sponsored by the Home Office. When might we look to doing an up-to-date prevalence study here in the UK?

My hon. Friend raises an important point, and I would like to pay tribute to the work she has done on this issue, which is respected in all parts of the House. We are assessing a funding application for a prevalence study. The Home Office and the NSPCC co-hosted a recent round-table at which prevalence was discussed, and we are considering various ways in which we can collect the data to inform a more targeted approach to ending this practice. Indeed, the Department of Health is exploring the collection of FGM data in the NHS, including in the maternity and children’s dataset.

One of the best actions we can take to tackle the attitudes that lead to FGM and gender-based violence is to ensure that all our children and young people receive age-appropriate and good-quality sex and relationship education. Has the Home Secretary discussed that with her colleagues in the Department for Education, and will the Government now support compulsory sex and relationship education?

The issue of education is discussed in the inter-ministerial group on violence against women and girls, which I chair. It meets regularly and brings Government Departments across the board, including the Department for Education, around the table. It is correct that education and information are very important aspects of dealing with FGM, which is why I am pleased to say that we have delivered 40,000 leaflets and posters to schools, health services, charities and community groups around the country, raising awareness of this issue.

May I associate myself with the Home Secretary’s comments about the work that the hon. Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison) has done on raising awareness of female genital mutilation in the UK? The Home Secretary will be aware of the calls for action to improve awareness of FGM, and to support young people who are facing this threat in coming forward. Given this and her response to my hon. Friend the Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Pamela Nash), may I press her on the question of the level of violence against women and girls in Britain, and ask whether she will give her direct personal support to the One Billion Rising campaign and the vote in this place on Thursday to make sex and relationship education statutory for both boys and girls—yes or no?

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments about my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea. As I said, the Government take this issue extremely seriously and we look across the board at what Government can do to deal with it. It is about helping communities themselves to eradicate this problem. Everyone in this Chamber will be concerned about the lack of prosecutions, and I am pleased that the Director of Public Prosecutions has issued a new action plan on FGM to the prosecutors, with the hope of getting prosecutions. We must recognise that education of a variety of sorts is important, which is why alerting people at various levels in the public services and in schools, and others, and helping girls to understand the threat themselves, is so important.