A fast-growing petition is calling on education secretary Michael Gove to help end female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK.
The petition asks the Education Secretary to encourage head teachers across the country to educate parents, and train staff to teach about FGM before the summer holiday ‘cutting season’.
The End FGM campaign, led by 17-year-old Muslim Fahma Mohamed and supported by The Guardian, has received widespread support from teachers. The National Union of Head Teachers has asked the government to update the advice given to schools on FGM.
The petition gained 200,000 signatures within eight days. Thirty three government ministers have shown their support by tabling an early-day-motion in the House of Commons. It has also received strong support in the Scottish parliament, where the education secretary Michael Russell has promised to write to every school to make sure they are aware of the risks and warning signs.
In an interview with Premier Childrenswork for the December/January issue, Anne-Marie Wilson [pictured], director of campaigning charity 28 Too Many said: ‘At the end of the day it is abuse...it’s not a cultural practice, it’s child abuse and is punishable with 12 years in prison, even for those who aid and abet. There are very few prosecutions because children don’t want to take their parents to court.’
Government figures estimate that 24,000 British girls are at risk of genital mutilation. FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985.
‘There was a case in Camden (North London) recently where a ten or 12- year-old came back from holiday and said that she couldn’t go swimming. The school was suspicious and called social services. The family went ballistic and the daughter denied it all. So what should happen next? She then started putting on weight and the school said that she was probably embarrassed about putting a swimming costume on, whereas she was probably retaining menses because her periods couldn’t come out. Things like that – people just don’t understand. We need to advocate to schools and social services. It’s not in the curriculum.’ Anne-Marie Wilson