Bolt Burdon Kemp hosts evening to end FGM with 28 Too Many, Felicity Gerry QC & Leyla HusseinApril 16, 2015
Sometimes the idealist in me truly believes that, with the vision of inspirational people and hard work, change really can happen.
The idealist in me came to the fore on the evening of the 1 April when Bolt Burdon Kemp hosted an evening to end FGM.
Three remarkable ladies spoke to a plethora of individuals committed to ending Female Genital Mutilation known as FGM.
There are 140 million women worldwide who are affected by FGM. Every six seconds a girl is subjected to FGM. It’s time something was done to end this practice.
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Our speakers were:
- Dr Ann-Marie Wilson of the charity 28 Too Many
- Felicity Gerry QC of 36 Bedford Row
- Leyla Hussein of Daughters of Eve and the Dahlia Project
If I were to list all their achievements this blog would never end. Instead a very brief resume of their work is set out below.
Ann Marie is the Executive Director and founder of 28 Too Many. She founded 28 Too Many in 2010 having learnt about FGM whilst working with a medical relief agency in Sudan.
Felicity is admitted to not only the Bar of England and Wales but also the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in Australia.. She contributed to the BAFTA nominated The Cruel Cut.
The Cruel Cut also featured Leyla Hussein. Leyla is a multi award winner, trained psychoptherapist, co founder of the Daughters of Eve and a community facilitator for Manor Gardens.
28 Too Many
Our evening started with Ann-Marie telling us about the work 28 Too Many is doing across Africa and the Diaspora to end FGM. 28 Too Many is researching how common FGM is in these countries and campaigns for change.
So far, 28 Too Many has produced detailed, thorough reports on the following countries;
- Sierra Leone
- The Gambia
Armed with this research, 28 Too Many hopes to use its model of change to built networks with local non government organisations, policy makers and the United Nations to ensure that FGM is ended. And it is working.
Slowly but surely 28 Too Many is increasing their networks and research indicates there has been decreases in FGM since the charity’s research began.
Felicity Gerry QC
Felicity’s talk focussed, as you would expect, on the law relating to FGM.
FGM has been outlawed in the UK since 1985. And yet there has not been one conviction. There has been a prosecution. A failed prosecution. Felicity touched upon “that doctor” who was prosecuted recently but was found not guilty of carrying out FGM.
In this case Felicity believed that there was a “systemic failure”. On this basis perhaps there was not enough for the jury to be able to apply the current criminal law on FGM and find there to be guilt. Ever the creative, Felicity believes that the systemic failure is similar to corporate manslaughter – and perhaps this could be applied and borrowed in the future?
Felicity stated that the law “does not work on its own” and that there will have to be a holistic approach to the eradication of FGM – social, political, educational and legal. Not only that – there should be mandatory reporting by everyone. Midwives and health visitors should obtain information from all of their patients with regards to FGM. If this was mandatory then we would be able to use this information to ascertain whether a child is at risk and take steps to ensure that the child is monitored and their parents are alerted to the fact that FGM is illegal in this country – a fact not all individuals are aware of even today.
Leyla is the “accidental campaigner”. She reminded us that FGM is a global issue. It does not affect girls in Africa but girls all over the world. 107,000 in the UK are living with FGM and 66,000 girls in the UK are risk of being cut. It is a violation of the human rights of those who are survivors.
FGM can happen whilst girls are babies, during puberty or whilst giving birth and the majority of those cut are cut when they are children. Children who do not have a say. Children who are unable to consent to what is taking place.
What we forget is the hidden impact of FGM of those women who have undergone FGM. There can be post traumatic disorder syndrome, experiencing flashbacks as well as sexual dysfunction.
What can be done to end FGM?
Echoing the sentiment of Felicity and Bolt Burdon Kemp, Leyla reiterated that a joined up approach is needed to end FGM.
“Everyone knows that they must report child abuse, the problem is that they don’t consider FGM is child abuse”.
It is imperative that education is at the heart of ending FGM. Education of healthcare professionals. Education of social work professionals. Education of teachers.
Once professional bodies have been educated then they need to implement NICE guidelines and NHS training on FGM and institutions and individuals can then be held accountable for allowing girls to be subjected to FGM.
But what can you do? Well, you’re reading this blog so that’s a step in the right direction. But you can do more. Tweet about FGM. Ask your MP about what the government is doing about FGM – and not just the Department of International Development but all the other departments that need to be involved also:
- The Department of Education
- The Department of Health
- The Ministry of Justice
Together if we make enough noise and look after those children who may be at risk we can end FGM.
DOWNLOAD OUR FGM FACTSHEET
I am a Senior Solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp specialising in Child Abuse claims, including FGM. If you think you may have a claim, contact me free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4886 or at SiobhanCrawford@boltburdonkemp.co.uk for specialist legal advice. Alternatively, you can complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Child Abuse team will contact you. You can find out more about the team here.