Only one of us has been cut, and only one of us is running for London mayor – but we both know the capital can take the lead in ending this shameful practice.
The barbaric practice of female genital mutilation is once again in the press - for the right and wrong reasons.
First, the positive: on 1 February Britain finally lodged its first successful conviction for female genital mutilation, despite having made FGM illegal all the way back in 1985. A mother and her partner were charged with ‘cutting’ their three-year-old girl, although only the mother was eventually found guilty. According to the judge, the mother will receive a “lengthy” sentence on 8th March. It is a significant, if long overdue, victory for anti-FGM campaigners.
And now the bad: a little over a week later, backbench Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope blocked an FGM-related Private Members Bill from passing its Second Reading in the House of Commons. The Bill was tabled in the Lords by Lord Berkeley and sponsored by Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, and it seeks to amend the Children Act to enable courts to issue protection orders if they think a girl is at risk of genital mutilation, i.e. a much-needed step. Chope claims he objected to ensure a proper debate, but that’s complete nonsense.
Sadly, this wasn’t Chope’s first foray into blocking justice for women. Chope famously pulled the same procedural trick to block the recent ‘upskirting’ bill, whose only crime was trying to punish blokes for taking unauthorised pictures of women’s fannies. Regrettable though it is, Chope is throwing pebbles against the arc of justice. Justice will – eventually – be done. That said, Chope is a Luddite and his reflexive – and selective – opposition to pro-women Prime Members Bills is a deep and dark stain on this government’s admirable efforts to protect women and girls.
While only one of us has had our fanny cut, we are both strong defenders of girls and women and believe wholeheartedly in stamping out FGM. There are simply to many girls and women here in London and across the UK – some of them only babies – who are having this life-defining scar inflicted upon them. We can, and must, do more to protect them.