Skip to main content

Female Genital Mutilation

Volume 654: debated on Wednesday 13 February 2019

The UK leads the world in our support to the Africa-led movement to end FGM. In 2018, we announced the biggest single investment worldwide to date by any international donor: a UK aid package of a further £50 million to tackle this issue across the most affected countries in Africa.

I am sure that I speak for all Members in expressing disappointment that the FGM Bill did not receive its Second Reading in the House last week. I am pleased to see that the Government have committed to bring the Bill back in Government time. Will my hon. Friend confirm that her door always remains open for any Member of this House who wishes to discuss what the Government are doing to stop this appalling crime?

I am pleased to be able to confirm that, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, wearing her gender equalities hat, has reached out to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope). She hopes to sit down with him and other colleagues should they wish to discuss this important issue.

Since I got my Female Genital Mutilation Bill through Parliament in 2003, we have had only one successful prosecution. That is a disgrace and I feel embarrassed talking about the eradication of FGM in other countries, but I wish to ask about what is being done in Kurdistan. My past experience leads me to believe there is a problem with FGM there, so are we tackling it?

The right hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the fact that FGM happens in many countries in the world. The DFID funding that I mentioned and the work that we have been doing has been focused specifically on 17 African countries. In that regard, I am pleased that 8,000 communities, representing more than 24 million people, have pledged to give up the practice.

Will the Minister tell us why the Government have not introduced legislation—they control the House and could get it through—rather than leave it to the vagaries of a private Member’s Bill? If they are interested in it, they should do something about it.

My hon. Friend would lead me down paths that are best left to the Government Whips and the Ministry of Justice, but the UK does of course believe that we can work with some of the citizen-led movements in Africa to change perceptions around FGM.

The Minister alluded to the Africa-led initiative, which has been positive, but will she not undertake to be much more emphatic in trying to co-ordinate an Africa-wide initiative to eliminate this vile practice?

The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the fact that this is a worldwide effort. We focus our efforts in countries where the practice is most widespread and where there is the greatest opportunity to work with the African-led movements to really effect change on the ground.

We have just had the first prosecution for FGM in this country; what more can this country do to prevent families from taking their girls abroad to have FGM done to them?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we have done a lot in this country to change domestic legislation—for example, to put reporting requirements on parts of the NHS. One must pay tribute to the tireless campaigning by courageous activists, both here and overseas, in respect of changing the practice and changing communities on the ground.

Everyone would agree that we need to tackle female genital mutilation. The Minister will be aware that the private Member’s Bill on the issue was scuppered. In the light of that, does she understand that confidence in the Government’s willingness to deal with the issue has been shaken? It is important that they now move quickly to restore that confidence.

I encourage the hon. Lady to continue with that confidence. We can point to a strong track record of working on this issue, not only in the UK but with some of the African-led initiatives in African countries. She will have heard it announced during the urgent question on Monday that the Chief Whip has committed to taking forward the UK legislation as quickly as possible.