Schoolgirls in the UK are being pressured into female genital mutilation (FGM) by their peers, according to a leading campaigner against the practice.
Leyla Hussein, the founder of Daughters of Eve, a charity which campaigns to end the practice, said despite new protections “the pressure is still there”.
Speaking as British and US agencies signed an agreement to step up co-operation in tackling FGM, she said: “The pressure is still there… some of my clients are 19-year-old girls now who were children or were born in this [country] and they will say to you they were pressured in a playground in a school in London to go and have it done.”
‘They Were Pressured In A Playground In A School In London’
Image Credit: Aaron Burden / UnsplashLeyla Hussein
Dr Hussien was cut aged just seven, after being held down by four other women while another performed FGM.
Although FGM is illegal in the UK, and has been its own criminal offence since 1985 (the law was later updated in 2003), there have yet to be any successful prosecutions, with the first two trials collapsing or leading to ‘not guilty‘ verdicts.
This makes a stark contrast to France, where there have been more than a hundred convictions in the past few decades.
The practice is also not sanctioned by any religion, however, Dr Hussien says despite moving to the UK aged 12 she didn’t know it was wrong until much later.
“Education plays a big part, in terms of prevention” she continued. “If I had some information in my school I might have said something.
“Those of us at the front line, we really have to be forceful in protecting children. And unfortunately I will be upsetting people but I personally don’t care if I’m going to upset some community leader.
Those of at the front line, we have to be really forceful in protecting children.
“For me, language is absolutely key when we’re tackling FGM. We have to use the right language. We cannot tiptoe around it.
“It is very easy to just look at it as a form of violence. Touching a child’s genitals is a sexual offence as far as I’m concerned.”
The new agreement signed by the US and UK means border control officers will stage joint operations at airports and share more intelligence.
It’s estimated some three million girls are cut every year across the globe.