UN Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo Visits UK – My Briefing Note On Violence Against Women And Girls
Rashida Manjoo, Professor of Public Law of the University of Cape Town, and Special Rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Council on Violence against women, its causes and consequences, was in London today to deliver her initial report on findings about (young) women and violence in the United Kingdom. I was invited to submit a short summary briefing on female genital mutilation (FGM) and violence against women and girls for Prof Manjoo’s consideration during her visit. This is what I said:
FAO Prof Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur: visit to London (12 April 2014)
My research / activities
British consultant sociologist who has worked in the field of gender equality, health and education for many years.
More details: Hilary Burrage (LinkedIn)
My MSc research (1971-3, U. of Salford) was on Women Scientists in British Universities – the first such study.
Concerns re young women experiencing FGM* and other VAWG**
Young women in the UK who experience FGM may be (are often?) thereby consigned to a relatively powerless gendered underclass.
The physical and psychological, sometimes life-threatening, harm, and the sense that they are the property of their male relatives, prevents some of them from completing their education, and forecloses on their expectations of autonomy in adult life. Much the same applies to those who experience VAWG, some of whom suffer extreme brutality.
Permitting FGM & VAWG criminalises otherwise good mothers who do it, some of them also young.
Current and future UK Government initiatives / legislative changes
The UK Parliament Home Affairs Select Committee is currently reviewing FGM law, and whether legislative changes are required. I have submitted evidence to the Committee: My Submission To The UK Home Affairs Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry On Female Genital Mutilation .
In my view one required essential change, now being considered, will be to enshrine Mandatory Reporting of all child abuse (inc. FGM) into law.
Another is to require full (all health providers, not just NHS hospital) anonymised statistics for FGM.
Questions to be addressed to UK Government by UN Special Rapporteur
Critically: How does the UK Government believe it can resolve / eradicate FGM and VAWG whilst
(1) it continues to marginalise and focus negatively on immigrants;
(2) it is unwilling even to appoint a reasonable number of women to high ministerial office; and
(3) it continues to shy away from some aspects of Personal, Social, Health & Relationship Education (PSHRE) in the school curriculum [NB for boys as well as girls].
Recommendations for policy / legislative development
As above. Also, Government must stop claiming that FGM, VAWG, forced marriage &c are put aside because of concerns about ‘cultural sensitivities’. If that was ever true, it’s not now. The reality is
(1) until quite recently the sheer brutality of many acts of FGM and VAWG was not understood – using vocabulary such as ‘female circumcision’ and ‘cutting’ permitted it to be trivialised;
(2) teachers, clinicians, youth and social workers and others in regulated activities remain unclear and anxious about when and how they should report FGM, and about whether it is necessary to report also when it is known that new mothers have had FGM;
(3) Mandatory confidential reporting and a clear, unitary reporting protocol [Let’s Drop The Clichés: Mandatory Reporting And Simple Protocols Are Essential To Prevent FGM And Other Child Abuse] are essential as an urgent priority.
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This is Prof Manjoo’s preliminary report, published on 16 April 2014: UK: UN rights expert calls for improved actions to fight violence against women and girls and here’s a Guardian report on her findings: UN special rapporteur criticises Britain’s ‘in-your-face’ sexist culture.
P.S. 25 April 2014: Sadly, Prof Manjoo’s commentary is given further weight by current developments in the asylum case of Afusat Saliu and her two small daughters. My article in the Guardian, today: How can Britain deport a child at risk of FGM? Theresa May must think again…Two-year-old Rashidat was born in the UK after her mother fled a forced marriage to an older man. Now the Home Office wants to send her to Nigeria.
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FURTHER INFORMATION AND ACTION
Readers are invited to support these two FGM e-petitions:
[See also HM Government e-petition, No. 35313, to STOP Female Genital Mutilation (FGM / ‘cutting’) in Britain (for UK citizens and residents – now closed).]
There is a free FGM hotline for anyone in the UK: 0800 028 3550, or email:firstname.lastname@example.org
For more on FGM please see here.
Facebook page: #NoFGM – a crime against humanity
More info on FGM in the UK here.
Email contact: NoFGM email
** Hilary Burrage is currently writing a book, Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: A UK Perspective