Girl Summit
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

Sources: Aljazeera, Girl Summit, CNN
Photo: CNN

female genital cutting
The preacher has performed many cuttings like this before. He holds up some broken glass to the light – he will use this to cut out the clitoris of the young girl. No anesthetic will be used. The pain she endures is thought to be a sign of her strength.

The young girl screams out against this horrific abuse to her body.

Over 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of Female Genital Cutting in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where it is most common, according to research from UNICEF.

The charity also estimates that 250 million women and girls alive today have been married since their 15th birthday.

In an attempt to highlight the issues of Female Genital Cutting and child, early and forced marriage, the UK government hosted the first international Girl Summit in London on July 22, co-hosted by UNICEF. Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai attended as well as women from across the world who have been affected by FGC.

The issue of FGC has been a growing concern in Britain where estimates from the Commons Home Affairs Committee reveal that 170,000 women and girls were living with FGC in the UK.

At the summit UK Prime Minister David Cameron revealed a £1.4 million prevention program aimed at ending the practice of FGC. New laws are set to come into effect, making it a crime for parents not to protect their children from female genital mutilation. Although illegal in the UK since 1985, no one has ever been convicted for FGC crimes.

The summit also revealed an “international charter” calling for the eradication of FGC and forced marriage within a generation.

Female Genital Cutting has no health benefits, is extremely painful and often leads to infections and in some cases death.

In its most severe form, the sensitive clitoris is completely or partly removed with crude and accessible implements in order to dull the sexual appetite of the girl. The genitals are then cut and stitched closed making sex impossible. Sometimes corrosive substances are poured in to scar and shrink the genitals.

Only a tiny piece of wood creates an opening so that urine and monthly blood can flow.

When the young girls are able to bear children they are un-stitched – and once the child has been born, stitched back up again.

The Girl Summit aims to raise the profile of this horrific practice which the Prime Minister has called a “preventable evil.”

He hopes that FGC can be ended in a generation. While so many of these types of summit fall short of meeting their goals, the issue of female genital mutilation and child marriage is finally being taken seriously by the international community. The new laws being introduced to the UK and the international charter raise the profile of this crime and may begin the process of eradicating this practice.

Female Genital Cutting Key Facts

· FGC Includes “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
· The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
· Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of new-born deaths.
· More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGC is concentrated.
· FGC is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
· FGC is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
· In December 2012, the U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution calling for all member states to ban the practice.

– Charles Bell

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC 3, UK Government, WHO
Photo: FBNewswire