THE Royal College of Midwives (RCM) hailed a major step forward yesterday in the battle to stop the “terrible crime” of female genital mutilation (FGM).
Parents could face prosecution under the government’s new action plan if they fail to prevent their daughters from suffering FGM.
Speaking at the Girl Summit in London yesterday, RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick also welcomed a series of other government measures to protect girls from FGM.
“There is a huge momentum being generated and a desire in Britain now to stop FGM,” Ms Warwick declared.
“We need to continue this pressure so that this terrible crime against women and girls is consigned to history.”
Other measures aimed at combating FGM and forced marriage include new guidance for police, an NHS prevention programme and a new specialist service to identify and respond to these abusive practices.
New legislation will be introduced to grant victims of FGM lifelong anonymity from the time an allegation is made.
An estimated 137,000 women and girls living in England and Wales are believed to have undergone FGM.
Worldwide, an estimated three million girls and women are at risk each year, with around 130 million victims living with the consequences.
In addition, around 700 million across the world were married as children — 250 million of them before the age of 15.
Yesterday’s summit was hosted by the British government and children’s charity Unicef.
Over 500 delegates attended from 50 countries, including front-line professionals, representatives of UN agencies, survivors’ groups and charities.
Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May were among government ministers at the event.
Ms May said: “I am proud of the action we are taking in the UK to stamp out these harmful practices.”
Teaching union NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney welcomed the summit, adding that teachers would benefit from more information about how to recognise signs of FGM.
He cautioned that the summit needed to recognise that the demand for services far outstripped the existing capacity of local social services departments.
“Every girl should have the right to control her body, to choose her own partner or none, and to pursue her own ambitions,” said Mr Courtney.