On International Women's Day, Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Bruce MP, Chair of the House of Commons International Development Committee (IDC) welcomed the Government’s pledge of £35 million of dedicated aid for tackling female genital mutilation (FGM).
Speaking less than a month after the Committee questioned the Metropolitan Police closely about the welfare of the more than 20,000 girls at risk of FGM within the UK, Sir Malcolm said:
"We have just returned from a visit to Ethiopia where we met girls as young as 7 being married off to much older men. We also heard first-hand about other abuses that girls and women suffer including widespread domestic violence and female genital mutilation.
Spending aid money to curb these harmful practices is the sensible option: Women who marry later have fewer children, a lower incidence of HIV, live and work longer, helping to pull their nations out of poverty.
It is encouraging to learn the UK Government intends to raise its game regarding action to tackle this horrific abuse.
It is particularly important that this commitment includes funding and effort to eliminate FGM within the UK. If we are to be credible when we call for action to tackle FGM via our overseas aid programmes, then we have to put our own house in order.
FGM was made illegal in the UK in 1985, yet despite this there has never been a single prosecution. Action is required to better enforce this legislation.
IDC will keep a close eye on this DFI commitment as part of its current and ongoing inquiry into the UK Government's attempts to address violence against women and girls worldwide.
A minister from DFID and another from the Foreign Office will appear before the Committee next month to answer questions on how UK aid money is being spent to help end violence against women and girls."
- FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. It is an excruciatingly painful practice which delivers no known health benefit and commonly has a devastating impact on both physical and mental health. Some girls die as a result of the practice and women who have undergone FGM are significantly more likely to suffer serious complications in childbirth. Other problems include infection, difficulty passing urine and disrupted menstruation.
- The International Development Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry on violence against women and girls. Follow on Twitter using #VAWG
- In the UK FGM affects around 20,000 girls – commonly between the ages of three and 16. Any efforts by the UK government to end FGM overseas may be undermined by British-based families from nations where this practice is culturally prevalent sending their daughters 'home' to be mutilated.
- Some of the written evidence submitted to the current IDC inquiry highlights the scale of this problem in diaspora communities within the UK. Read the written evidence received on Violence against Women and Girls
- Oral evidence taken from the Metropolitan Police and FGM activists on 12 February 2013 provides further detail.
- The DFID programme, worth up to £35m, aims to reduce FGM by 30% in at least ten priority countries over the next five years. It aims to: Support work to end FGM in at least fifteen countries through work directly within local communities. Work with governments and traditional leaders to back laws to end FGM; Fund research into the most cost-effective approaches to ending FGM, to ensure UK-supported work has the maximum impact. Support diaspora communities in the UK to help change practices in their countries of origin.
- Find out more about the International Development Committee inquiry into Violence Against Women and Girls