We will not be silent on Female Genital Mutilation
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and so called ‘honour’ based violence are forms of domestic violence and there is no place for domestic violence in Scotland.
FGM is unacceptable and been illegal in Scotland since 2005. The practice is an extreme abuse and violation of human rights; it reflects deep-rooted gender inequality, and constitutes a severe form of discrimination against women and girls.
It is estimated that worldwide at least 200 million women and girls have undergone some sort of FGM, with the United Nations, as well as inter-governmental organisations including the African Union, the European Union and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation all condemning the practice.
FGM denies women and girls’ rights to health, security and physical integrity; and the right to be free from torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
It is well established that FGM interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies. It can also result in lifelong physical pain and health problems, and even in some cases, cause death.
The stories I’ve heard from women who have been forced to endure this practice and the harmful side effects on their lives is what drives me to ensure we protect women and girls and condemn FGM to the past.
I recognise the progress we have made as a global community. Girls are one third less likely to undergo this harmful practice today than they were in 1997 in countries where the UN and UNICEF have worked jointly to end FGM.
But we want to go further. I recognise FGM is a complex, and often hidden issue – there is no quick fix or single solution to ending it for good.
The Scottish Government is working hard with all of our partners across the public and third sectors, and potentially affected communities to to do everything possible to effectively prevent, tackle, and eventually eradicate this unacceptable practice from our society. This approach was reflected in the excellent turnout at a summit, held on Thursday, bringing together charities and public bodies dedicated to tackling this unlawful act.
Representatives from universities, the NHS, the Home Office and Police Scotland joined several charities supporting black and ethnic minorities to discuss and inform future work in terms of policy and legislation.
Last month I introduced the new Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance) Bill to the Scottish Parliament. This new legislation will strengthen the existing legislative framework for the protection of women and girls from FGM. The Bill will strengthen safeguards for women and girls at risk by introducing Protection Orders and create a power for Scottish Ministers to issue statutory guidance to public bodies about FGM, to improve practice in this area.
Legislation is only one aspect of our approach. We are making sure it is supported by a wider strategy that prioritises prevention, protection from harm and the provision of high quality services for women and girls. This includes a National Action Plan which runs until 2020.
This summit was an opportunity for us to take stock of the achievements we’ve made, and identify where further work is needed to drive progress and consider what our next steps should be.
I want to reiterate the Scottish Government’s view that FGM is an unacceptable and illegal practice, and an extreme abuse of the human rights of women and girls. We are unswerving in our dedication to eliminating it from Scottish society.