Oct 6, 2008, 7:27 AM
Even though it was the ‘first gathering of its kind’, the MEPs were able to achieve a unanimous consensus along with other stakeholders on FGM not only in Europe, but across the world.
Expert Andrew Baker who has been monitoring events since the beginning told The Point that ‘the gathering was not only successful, but also timely…it is a wakeup call because FGM cannot continue un-debated’.
Asked about the sensitivity of the issue, he added: I’m sorry, but we cannot simply brush it under the carpet when lives are at stake’.
Experts at the gathering also warned that parents who allow or force their daughters to do FGM ‘must be prosecuted’ as a form of deterrent. ‘Upsetting the local communities’, they said, cannot be an excuse for keeping quiet about the issue.
FGM ‘survivors’ invited also used the opportunity to tell their stories - some of it very traumatic and harrowing indeed. Certain West African women explained how their parents and other relatives ‘tricked’ and eventually ‘mutilated’ them against their will.
Similarly, medical experts maintained the danger of FGM, especially the way and manner it is conducted by certain individuals with ‘little or no medical experience’, thus causing danger to young and vulnerable girls.
Experts also agreed that the ‘full force of the law’ must be implemented against both ‘parents and cutters’.
Campaigners in Europe are also contending that despite ‘hard work and sensitisation’ against FGM over the years, people are still actively engaging in the practice. However, they maintained that education is ‘still ongoing as a form of prevention’, but at the same time prosecution is a necessary deterrent.
Even though FGM has been illegal in UK for over 20 years, campaigners lament that ‘no one has ever been prosecuted’ for the act. Therefore, they are demanding ‘tougher measures’, and called on the EU to enforce it.
Activists also claimed that a similar situation of ‘non-prosecution’ is taking place in other EU countries; however, both France and Spain are taking legal measures.
Meanwhile, the UK confirmed that more than 20,000 young girls in the country are ‘at risk’, and that over 60,000 women are ‘living the consequences’ of FGM. As a matter of urgency, the UK government is investing more than £30 million in trying to eradicate the practice in a number of 15 different countries.
This correspondent has gathered from records last year that nearly ‘half a million women in Europe’ have had FGM, but the report was quick to add that figure was just an ‘estimate’. Many are thought to be doing it outside the borders of the EU only to return in silence.
Whatever the case, it is fair to note that the FGM debate has refused go away in Europe, despite the sensitive nature of the topic.
It is mainly due to disturbing and sometimes harrowing stories and testimonies coming out from the victims combined with the medical evidence.
In the UK, there are some women who are reluctant to return to their country of origin claiming that their girl-child may be circumcised.
In fact, currently there are several high-profile Immigration Court cases involving several West Africans including some Gambian nationals, regarding the same issue.