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Parents face prosecution over FGM

Parents who fail to prevent their daughter being subjected to female genital mutilation will face prosecution under new legislation unveiled by the Government at a summit in London.

A £1.4 million FGM Prevention Programme for those at risk was among a raft of plans announced by Prime Minister David Cameron at the Girl Summit, co-hosted by the Government and Unicef.

The measures to combat FGM and forced marriage in the UK and abroad came as Unicef warned advances made in tackling them in the developing world could be reversed if the pace of action is not increased.

Mr Cameron said: "It's such a simple but noble and good ambition, and that is to outlaw the practices of female genital mutilation and childhood and early forced marriage.

"To outlaw them everywhere, for everyone, within this generation. That is the aim."

Mr Cameron said he wanted his two daughters to have "every opportunity that my son has".

He went on: "My eldest daughter is 10. Not that much younger than some of the children who get pushed into childhood or early marriage, not that much younger than girls who get cut and have their lives in so many ways taken away from them.

"This really is about the world that we want children like my daughter to grow up in."

Mr Cameron attended the summit in London along with International Development Secretary Justine Greening, Home Secretary Theresa May and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Mr Clegg unveiled plans to give teachers, doctors and social workers extra training to identify and help girls who might be at risk of becoming victims of FGM.

Further measures announced today include:

:: New police guidance from the College of Policing and an inspection programme by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) that will look at how police handle FGM cases;

:: A consultation on proposed civil orders to protect girls at risk of FGM;

:: New legislation to grant victims of FGM life-long anonymity from the time they make an allegation;

: A specialist "FGM service" that will see social workers "proactively" identify instances of FGM

:: New programmes to prevent child and forced marriage in 12 developing nations;

:: An "International Charter" calling for the eradication of these practices within a generation.

However, Unicef warned that while the rate of FGM and child marriage has fallen over the past three decades, population increase in developing nations alone could reverse this trend if "intensive action" is not introduced.

It said its research showed that more than 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of FGM in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where it is most common.

In addition, some 700 million women alive today worldwide were married as children, including more than a third - 250 million - who were married before the age of 15.

Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said: "The numbers tell us we must accelerate our efforts.

"And let's not forget that these numbers represent real lives.

"While these are problems of a global scale, the solutions must be local, driven by communities, families and girls themselves to change mindsets and break the cycles that perpetuate FGM/C and child marriage.

"We can't let the staggering numbers numb us - they must compel us to act."

Malala Yousafzai, the teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban and made a miraculous recovery to become a global campaigner for education and women's rights, made a passionate speech to the conference at Walworth Academy, south-east London.

She said: "Traditions are not sent from heaven, they are not sent from God. It is we who make cultures and we have the right to change it and we should change it.

"Those traditions that go against the rights of girls, they should be stopped.

"A girl is a human being and she should be respected. That is why we ask that FGM should be stopped, we ask that there should be no early child forced marriages."

She added: "The best solution is education. Let's educate the girl and let's make her independent."

Mr Cameron said the campaign ranks alongside the "great development challenges that we face", such as poverty, malaria, TB and polio.

He told the summit: "These practices are just simply a violation of girls' rights. They are a total violation of the chance to enjoy your childhood and the chance to lead a fulfilling life."

He added: "We are dealing with a preventable evil. This does not have to happen and with the right combination of effort, political will and hard work we can achieve what we've set out to achieve."

Earlier this month MPs warned that the failure to tackle the growing practice of female genital mutilation in the UK is a "national scandal" that has resulted in the preventable abuse of thousands of girls, a committee of MPs has said.

In a hard-hitting report, the Commons Home Affairs Committee said FGM may be one of the most prevalent forms of "severe physical child abuse" taking place in Britain, with an estimated 65,000 girls under the age of 13 at risk.

There are an estimated 170,000 women and girls in the UK who have undergone FGM, the report said, while in two London boroughs almost one in 10 girls are born to mothers who have suffered the procedure and are therefore themselves at risk.


From Belfast Telegraph