At the Girl Summit on July 22, 2014, Britain took the lead against combating female genital cutting (FGC) and child marriage on both the domestic and global level. The first-ever summit to address the issues women face around the world is occurring in London and is supported by the government of the United Kingdom and UNICEF.
The meeting includes government representatives, grass-root organization, NGOs and survivors from across the world.
In support of the Girl Summit and to increase women’s rights, the British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged over $2.4 million to help end FGC in the country. A portion of the money is also designated to help support survivors and to better train police on how to handle these cases.
Prevention initiatives are greatly needed throughout the country, as an estimated 20,000 girls are at risk of undergoing the procedure. FGC is a global problem that affects women in both developed and developing nations.
Now, under the enactment of a new law, teachers and health care workers in Britain must inform authorities of cases of FGC. From those reports officials will then prosecute the victim’s family and other parties involved.
FGC involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is normally intended to prevent sexual pleasure. The procedure, a social norm in many African countries, denies a woman the rights over her body. FGC often has severe long-term physical and psychological effects.
In the next 10 years, over 30 million females are at risk of being cut globally. It is estimated that more than 125 million women have already been subjected to the practice.
In the United Kingdom, FGC has been outlawed since 1985. Laws enacted in 2003 also made it illegal for a British citizen to perform the procedure even in countries where it was legal. The government’s new law and monetary support to the Girl Summit initiative marks a continued commitment to end the dangerous practice.
The summit also seeks to address another pressing issue for females: child marriage. It hopes to form an international charter to address early marriage, as over 700 million women across the globe today were married before age 18.
The practice is most prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, and those most at risk are girls from low-income families. In India, the issue is especially pervasive, as one in three of all child brides lives there.
Marrying early decreases a girl’s likelihood of attending school, increases her risk of falling victim to domestic violence and increases complications from pregnancy. To combat this, the British government expressed its support of prevention programs that will help to end child marriage in 12 developing nations.
The combined efforts of the UK government, UNICEF and other supporting organizations offer an impactful step in raising awareness about, and challenging the social norms that allow FGC and child marriage. Though the practice of FGC and child marriage is global and extensive, the Girl Summit is leading the fight to end violations of women’s rights.
– Kathleen Egan