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Brexit, Youth And Media: Decelerating The Movement To End FGM?

October 19, 2018

18.10.19 Oxford FGM event (6)Friday 19 October 2018 saw us at another Oxford University International Gender Studies Centre / UnCUT/VOICES Press event considering approaches to eradicating female genital mutilation (FGM), this time with a focus on media and youth.  One theme arising throughout the day was the need for greater evaluation of different ways to attempt eradication, but my contribution was more specific: I asked what is known about the impact which Brexit (the UK leaving the European Union) would have – if it happens – on work to end FGM?

I have been researching this question – to which I shall return here again when my enquiries are complete – for a while, but one illuminating response arrived in my Inbox just as I was travelling to Kellogg College in Oxford. It was this, from Julie Ward MEP, that we discussed in my session.

Statement by Julie Ward MEP, October 2018

The European Union has been proactive in its response to FGM and has made direct attempts to combat this crime. As such, Brexit may have an impact on the UK’s response towards eliminating FGM.

For instance, the EU has been actively funding projects aimed at education and the prevention of FGM within Europe. In 2017, a web-based programme was set up by the EU to educate judges, nurses and other professionals about FGM, to notice the signs and understand how to report it. These activities from part of a wider programme of funding against gender-based violence within the EU.

EU law also includes specific legislation that protects victims of FGM through measures focused on the provision of shelters in emergency situations and confidential specialist support services. The Victims’ Rights Directive also ensures that victims do not suffer discrimination on any grounds, and that undocumented migrants can also access the rights and services it lays down.

Externally, the EU’s foreign policy has promoted female rights and supported states to enact legislation and financially support programmes against FGM.

After Brexit there are two concerns. The disruption to the EU and possible impact on the EU’s budget may impact on the international work done by the EU. More likely however, there may be a reduced focus on FGM in the UK. It needs to be made clear that the UK will continue to match the EU funding on these projects and make tackling FGM a priority.

Richard Corbett MEP said in 2017: ‘Rather than walking away from a group of countries committed to tackling this form of violence, the UK government must continue to work with the EU to end FGM, and look into the possibility of working with EU-funded NGOs who work at a grassroots level to eliminate it, as well as collaborating on projects in non-EU countries.’

However, considering that the Conservative Government has not yet ratified the Istanbul Treaty and Conservative MPs talk about watering down EU legislation on gender discrimination compensation post-Brexit, there are questions about the political will in the UK to fully protect women. Finally, the UK has only given vague details about its immigration policy post Brexit. If there will be an increase of migration from states where FGM is common, the UK will need robust mechanisms to tackle FGM within the UK. Judging the Home Office’s by its hostile environment policy, the Windrush scandal and coercing destitute migrants to ‘voluntarily return’ to their home countries, it does not seem that offering support is at the top of their priorities.

(NB I have added here some weblinks to Julie’s statement to assist anyone coming fresh to these issues. Otherwise, the statement is published as it was written.)

My thanks to Julie Ward and her team for this illuminating and deeply concerning statement.

There’s a great deal to think about here; but so far it seems almost no-one has considered these very serious matters at all.

‘Invisible’ issues
Who will attend to these issues?  Young women, the most directly at risk if FGM is not brought to an end, have no effective leverage in matters political – least of all if they are in the sorts of traditional communities where this harm actually occurs – and the media everywhere have no evident interest in even the general human rights aspects of Brexit, let alone in the matter specifically of harmful practices such as female genital mutilation.

It may be relevant that, despite our having a female (committed Brexiteer) Prime Minister, almost all discussion of Brexit in the UK parliament has been by men…..

My enquiries about the potential impacts of Brexit as it evolves on FGM eradication continue, and your thoughts – readers of this blog  – are most welcome via the Comments box below.

This is very much unfinished business.

Read more about FGM and Brexit

Read more here about Human Rights and Democracy

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Your comments and thoughts on this topic are very welcome.

Please post them in the box which follows these announcements…..

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Books by Hilary Burrage on female genital mutilation

18.04.12 FGM books together IMG_3336 (3).JPG

Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: A UK Perspective (Hilary Burrage, Ashgate / Routledge 2015).
Full contents and reviews   HERE.
FEMALE MUTILATION: The truth behind the horrifying global practice of female genital mutilation  (Hilary Burrage, New Holland Publishers 2016).
Full contents and reviews   HERE.


There is a free FGM hotline for anyone in the UK: 0800 028 3550, or email:

Details of NHS Specialist Services for FGM here.

More info and posts on FGM here.

Activists, service providers and researchers may like to join the LinkedIn group Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): Information, reports and research, which has several hundred members from around the world.

The (free) #NoFGM Daily News carries reports of all items shared on Twitter that day about FGM – brings many organisations and developments into focus.

Also available to follow at no cost or obligation is the #NoFGM_USA Daily News.

Twitter accounts:          @NoFGM_UK  @NoFGMBookUK @FemaleMutlnBook  @FGMStatement  @NoFGM_USA @NoFGM_Kenya  @NoFGM_France  @GuardianEndFGM [tag for all: #NoFGM] and @StopMGM.

Facebook page: #NoFGM – a crime against humanity

Email contact: via Hilary


[NB The Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, which has a primary focus on FGM, is clear that in formal discourse any term other than ‘mutilation’ concedes damagingly to the cultural relativists – though the terms employed may of necessity vary in informal discussion with those who by tradition use alternative vocabulary. See the Feminist Statement on the Naming and Abolition of Female Genital Mutilation,  The Bamako Declaration: Female Genital Mutilation Terminology and the debate about Anthr/Apologists on this website.]


This article concerns approaches to the eradication specifically of FGM.  I am also categorically opposed to MGM, but that is not the focus of this particular piece.

Anyone wishing to offer additional comment on more general considerations around infant and juvenile genital mutilation is asked please to do so via these relevant dedicated threads.

Discussion of the general issues re M/FGM will not be published unless they are posted on these dedicated pages. Thanks.


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