FGM is an atrocity which transcends politics – we must ensure that the Tories oppose it in deed as well as word

Tories in Europe are hampering attempts to tackle FGM.

Last Thursday was International Day of Zero Tolerance against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

The Guardian launched a petition to the government calling, in particular, on Michael Gove to write to all head teachers spreading awareness of FGM among pupils and parents.

The open letter, which received 100,000 signatures in the first 24 hours, is part of the ‘End FGM’ campaign, and prompted the Department for Education to promise “clearer, simpler” guidelines on the issue.

Home Office minister Norman Baker also used the occasion to announce plans to “defeat this appalling practice once and for all”, promising a formal study and additional funding for a helpline. And at the Strasbourg plenary, European Parliament members of all parties voted through, by a show of hands, a resolution to end the horror of FGM across member states.

These are signs, one would assume, of a cross-party consensus on the issue – that left and right are willing to work together.

But just a couple of months ago Conservatives in Europe’s stance on the issue of FGM was considerably less clear. Tory MEPs twice voted down Edite Estrela’s Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the European Parliament, which included a range of steps designed to protect the sexual rights of women and LGBT people.

The measures within the Estrela report were things with which most sensible people could surely agree.

As well as calling for FGM to be designated as a human rights violation, it looked to outlaw forced sterilisation, gender – and sexuality-motivated bullying, and laws that stigmatise those living with HIV. It called on member states to facilitate safe access to STI treatment, non-discriminatory sex education, and safeguards ensuring women who become pregnant as a result of rape have access to abortion.

Yet in October of last year when the report went to the Parliament, many Conservative MEPs sided with Nick Griffin’s BNP in order to obstruct it, setting themselves to the right even of UKIP (who abstained).

Less than two months later they also succeeded in blocking the report altogether at the second attempt. They voted with a coalition of right-wing factions to sabotage the already watered-down proposals, on the grounds that the Estrela report represented an attack on national sovereignty.

A combination of virulent Euroscepticism and relentless lobbying by religious groups made sure that a pan-European solution to FGM could not go through.

Because anti-European feeling is so strong among those on the right, Conservative MEPs feel at liberty to indulge their most reactionary instincts when voting in the European Parliament.

This is not just the case on women’s rights, but also on issues like the environment, where many Conservatives have blocked perfectly reasonable proposals – such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme – for no good reason other than dogma and sheer bloody-mindedness.

Thanks to this mindset the horrors of FGM go on. A paper by the European Institute for Gender Equality gives us an idea of its scale: according to 2011 numbers, the UK has Europe’s fourth highest level of asylum claims from women in FGM practising countries, and has an estimated 65,000 FGM victims.

Across the EU there are thought to be half a million women who have been subjected to this appalling issue.

Added to this, it is extremely difficult to get meaningful data on this most intimate of crimes. Convictions are terrifyingly rare.

This makes it all the more important that we get a clear and unequivocal consensus on the issue, and that we hold to account those who attempt to block progress. FGM is a challenging enough problem to overcome without Conservative MEPs using it as a political vent.

Mary Honeyball is MEP for London and Labour spokesperson for women in Europe.She sits on the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee in Europe

27 Responses to “FGM is an atrocity which transcends politics – we must ensure that the Tories oppose it in deed as well as word”

  1. Alec

    As glad as I am the FGM is being mentioned in the public sphere – and not as an expression of acquiescence – given the putative Left’s work in letting it gain a foothold in this country, I think at the very least using it for a cheap political jibe is distasteful.

    ~alec

  2. guest

    oh dear, *that* is political point scoring of the worst kind when we want to be united against this ghastly crime.

  3. S&A

    It isn’t, seeing as up until now FGM was ignored by Guardianistas, and also by the authorities. As per the article below, it wouldn’t have been tolerated for so long if young European girls were being maimed.

    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/nick-cohen/2012/07/the-racism-of-the-respectable/

  4. OrtegaSeason

    it wouldn’t have been tolerated for so long if young European girls were being maimed.
    It’s an emotive argument to make, but unless you can actually find an instance where it took place and the police did act then it’s also an empty one. I would suspect that the main reason it’s ignored is because no one comes forward to report it. A lot of the girls who have had it done to them probably don’t question it. Even if they do, what do they actually gain by coming forward?

  5. Alec

    No you, banana. Or would you respond the same way if I called Paul Staines out on an anti drink driving campaign?

    (Not that I ever would need to, given his unrepentant nature.)

    ~alec

  6. Alec

    It’s an emotive argument to make, but unless you can actually find an instance where it took place and the police did act then it’s also an empty one.

    I agree. Look at the official disregard of the sex grooming gangs – aka rape packs – targeting Euro girls..

    Instead, you had the likes of that ghastly creature from Rotherham Council who pounced on foster carers with an unblemished record for a thought crime after she’d done Sweet Felicity Arkwright to stop the rape packs.

    ~alec

  7. S&A

    Read the link.

  8. Sparky

    Surely it’s intolerant and racist to interfere with an individual’s right to express his religious and cultural beliefs? Left wingers have been telling us this for years.

  9. Alec

    I would suspect that the main reason it’s ignored is because no one comes forward to report it. A lot of the girls who have had it done to them probably don’t question it. Even if they do, what do they actually gain by coming forward?

    Utter nonsense.

  10. Alec

    The Guardian launched a petition to the government calling, in particular, on Michael Gove to write to all head teachers spreading awareness of FGM among pupils and parents.

    Letter writing! Get those pens whirling like Boadicea’s chariot wheels!

    I’d say that teachers not noticing girls in their classes who’ve been the victim of serious physical assault and mutilation aren’t going to pull their socks up after a sternly worded letter. I also would say that given the complete failure of the authorities to enforce existing legislation which outlaws slicing-off young girls’ clitores, the idea that a letter is going to make a difference would be risible if it were so offensively trite.

    As well as calling for FGM to be designated as a human rights violation, it looked to outlaw forced sterilisation, gender – and sexuality-motivated bullying, and laws that stigmatise those living with HIV. It called on member states to facilitate safe access to STI treatment, non-discriminatory sex education, and safeguards ensuring women who become pregnant as a result of rape have access to abortion.

    There you have it. Noble as those other appeals certainly this, this manifestly was _not_ a Report dedicated to FGM. It was a fissiparous collection of vaguely-defined, happy-clappy causes.

    Perhaps if Mary Honeyball were so concerned about FGM, she should have introduced a dedicated report.

    ~alec

  11. OrtegaSeason

    Utter nonsense.
    Which part? That many girls don’t question it, or that they don’t gain anything by coming forward?

  12. Alec

    The parts which suggest you were only, at best, dimly aware of it until this piece or some petition which shows that the Graun really, really care. All of it, basically.

    The one about transferring cause onto the girls for not trying hard enough also is a corker.

    ~alec

  13. Alec

    I find it difficult to believe that someone who apportions blame to the girls for not trying hard enough would response +vely to that article.

  14. OrtegaSeason

    The one about transferring cause onto the girls for not trying hard enough also is a corker.
    Responsibility for crimes not getting reported rests on witnesses. If my car gets stolen and I don’t report it, then it doesn’t become the fault of the police that the thieves don’t get caught.

  15. Alec

    You either don’t have a smeggin’ clue or you’re trolling on a heart-breaking subject. Which is it? Are you an idiot or a moral pervert?

    ~alec

  16. OrtegaSeason

    Yeah I’m a “moral pervert” because I actually have something rational to say instead of just whining and bitching.

  17. Alec

    Yes you’re a moral pervert, and no you have nothing rational t say. You’re doing nowt but whining and bitching… but dressing it up in honesty inquiry. No content, no genuine display of concern for the girls or desire to dispel your ignorance… just a constant stream of sneering condescension .

    ~alec

  18. OrtegaSeason

    you have nothing rational t say
    Please indicate what I’ve said so far that isn’t rational.

  19. Alec

    Everything. The notion that victims of severe physical/sexual/emotional abuse are cowed into silence and intimidated from reporting it to the authorities is such an unremarkable and widely accepted one that to question it, as you have done here, is not credible.

    Although I don’t think the until-now silence from the suddenly locative Graun and Honeyball’s constituency is simply ‘cos it wasn’t Euro girls’ having their clitores sliced-off – re @disqus_PmgLlI1Ep2:disqus – but because of whom the perpetrators are (cf. malfeasance from state agencies over the predominately Muslim-background rape packs), I doubt you’d dare this about Euro girls reporting similar.

    ~alec

  20. OrtegaSeason

    The notion that victims of severe physical/sexual/emotional abuse are cowed into silence and intimidated from reporting it to the authorities is such an unremarkable and widely accepted one that to question it, as you have done here, is not credible.

    You seem to be the one ignorant about these practices. The most common forms of “FGM” are carried out by women and from their perspective for the benefit of women. In Indonesia they actually have mass cutting ceremonies that are attended solely by mothers. Even Ayan Hirsi Ali’s said that her father forbade her mother from doing it to her but she still did it anyway. The idea that this is some patriarchal practice being enforced on women by men has no factual basis. So who is being intimidated and cowed by whom exactly?

    I doubt you’d dare this about Euro girls reporting similar.


    Based on how you’ve used it in the other comments here, by “Euro” I’m assuming you mean white northern Europeans. If there were cultures based in northern Europe where this was a widely accepted norm, then yes I would say it. There aren’t though. So it’s an empty point.

  21. Alec

    […] The most common forms of “FGM” are carried out by women and from their perspective for the benefit of women.[…]

    A response which neither refutes my statement nor demonstrates that FGM is of a different order of abuse simply because of the sex of perpetrators.

    Based on how you’ve used it in the other comments here, by “Euro” I’m assuming you mean white northern Europeans.

    No, I also include southern Europeans.

    If there were cultures based in northern Europe where this was a widely accepted norm, then yes I would say it. There aren’t though. So it’s an empty point.

    Firstly, I did not stipulate the precise same practice. Secondly, I still don’t believe you’d dare do it because there isn’t the same moral crapulence created by the Graun and Honeyball’s constituency which allows people to take pride in not intervening. Thirdly, it is not for you to decide what is and is not relevant, and contemptuously decline even to acknowledge those which you don’t.

    Come on, just admit it, you don’t give a hoot for these girls but rather see them – and possibly other large groups of humans – as vague concepts, seen with your clinical/detached descriptions of slicing-off clitores as “a widely accepted norm” perpetrated for a “perspective for the benefit of women” which reduces the victims to exhibits in an anthropology display and borders on amoral sociopathy… ugh.

    ~alec

  22. OrtegaSeason

    No, I also include southern Europeans.

    Are you sure? What you’ve said so far made it sounds like you used “Euro” to mean white northerners. Most people in Southern Spain are very genetically similar to Moroccans, so do Moroccans count as Europeans?

    Graun and Honeyball’s constituency

    What the hell are talking about?

    seen with your clinical/detached descriptions
    I think it’s much more credible to be detached about things that don’t effect you than to be selectively emotional about them. If people felt an emotional attachment to all the negatively in the world they wouldn’t be able to function normally. I don’t see that or selective emotionalism as being virtues. Sorry.

  23. Alec

    Are you sure? What you’ve said so far made it sounds like you used “Euro” to mean white northerners. Most people in Southern Spain are very genetically similar to Moroccans, so do Moroccans count as Europeans?

    Stop being a troll. You’re the one who ‘suggested’ white. Given that I’m not a tacky race-baiter, I don’t see Southern Europeans as a lesser breed than Dutch or Danish.

    What the hell are talking about?

    It’s written in plain English. If you can’t understand it, maybe it’s your problem.

    I think it’s much more credible to be detached about things that don’t effect you than to be selectively emotional about them. If people felt an emotional attachment to all the negatively in the world they wouldn’t be able to function normally. I don’t see that or selective emotionalism as being virtues. Sorry.

    Ya-a-a-a-a-wn, twat with a few lessons in undergrad cultural theory and anthropology under his belt.

    Here’s what I think… I think you’re a misanthrope who, rather than admit to his inability to feel empathy towards strangers, dresses it up in clinical detachment and academic inquiry. Because you also are a moral snob who wants to be thought of as better than everyone else, instead of a emotional cripple who just doesn’t know how to care and sees other human beings like exhibits in a wildlife park..

    Your moral perversion we’ve dealt with. I don’t doubt you wouldn’t give a hoot about Euro girls being subjected to the same or similar, but you in addition are a moral coward who just does not have the balls to admit to it… because of what the Graun and Honeyball’s constituency have wrought on us, however, you have licence to do it with the current victims of FGM.

    It wasn’t always like this. A few years ago you’d have been told to FOAD quick time.

    ~alec

  24. OrtegaSeason

    I’m not a tacky race-baiter

    Are you sure,…..

    Look at the official disregard of the sex grooming gangs – aka rape packs – targeting Euro girls..

    ……because this sentence suggests you equate European with white. Unless you were meaning to suggest that the gangs were singling out girls who were citizens of E.U. countries? Is that what you meant?

    Ya-a-a-a-a-wn, twat with a few lessons in undergrad cultural theory and anthropology under his belt.

    Sure, why not.

    sees other human beings like exhibits in a wildlife park..

    Only those who act it.

    you in addition are a moral coward

    You mean as opposed to all the moral heroes who risk their health and wellbeing to post angry comments on the internet?

  25. Alec

    You strange and unpleasant man. The sound you just have heard is of Mary Wollstonecraft turning in her grave.

    ~alec

  26. guest

    Ortega does appear to have won this argument overall

  27. Alec

    No he does not, you equally slimy disgrace.

    ~alec

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