London mayor Khan urged to lead campaign on female genital mutilation

London's mayor, Sadiq Khan. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 April 2017

London mayor Khan urged to lead campaign on female genital mutilation

LONDON: London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, should lead a high profile campaign to end "the hidden crime" of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the capital, the city's assembly said on Tuesday.
An estimated 170,000 women and girls in Britain have undergone FGM and 65,000 pre-teen girls are thought to be at risk, the London Assembly said in a report.
Half of FGM cases recorded in the country are in London, where affected communities include Somalis, Sierra Leoneans, Eritreans and Sudanese.
The ritual, done for cultural, traditional or religious reasons, involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia. In some cases the vaginal opening is also sewn up.
"FGM remains a hidden crime - still taking place behind closed doors, with many girls still at risk," Jennette Arnold, deputy chairwoman of the elected assembly, said in a statement.
The report said many professionals, such as police, teachers health and social workers, were not confident about how to respond to cases of FGM, which can cause serious physical and emotional problems.
It called for the mayor to help improve coordination between frontline services and highlighted the need for better training.
"We need to be bold, strong and ambitious," Arnold said. "I am more determined than ever that London becomes a 'zero cutting city'."
National efforts to eradicate FGM have gained momentum in recent years with the once taboo subject making the headlines.
Health workers and teachers are now required to report cases of FGM in under 18s.
Britain has also strengthened the law on FGM which was outlawed in 1985, although there has never been a successful prosecution.
But the London Assembly report said many believed the emphasis should be on preventing FGM and supporting those at risk rather than pursuing prosecutions.
It also called for increased efforts to engage boys and men in combating the ancient ritual which some families believe prevents promiscuity.
FGM activist Hibo Wardere said having Khan spearhead a London-wide campaign would make "a massive difference".
"Everybody should make it their business to end FGM - it doesn't matter what community you're from," added Wardere who wrote about undergoing FGM as a child in Somalia in her recently published memoir "Cut"..
The mayor did not comment on whether he would lead a campaign, but his deputy mayor for policing, Sophie Linden, said he was committed to tackling the "appalling practice".
"We need to ... ensure that people who carry out such barbaric practices are brought to justice," she said.


‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

Updated 22 January 2021

‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

  • A UN representative said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region

ADDIS ABABA: The UN says it has received “disturbing” reports of sexual violence and abuse in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region, including of individuals forced to rape members of their own family.
Pramila Patten, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region, including “a high number of alleged rapes” in the Tigrayan capital Mekele.
“There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence,” Patten said in a statement Thursday.
“Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities.”
Patten called on all parties involved in the hostilities to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual violence.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, announced military operations in Tigray in early November, saying they came in response to attacks by the regional ruling party on federal army camps.
Abiy declared victory after federal forces entered the regional capital in late November, though leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) remain on the run and have vowed to fight on.
Thousands have died in the conflict, according to the International Crisis Group, though a communications blackout and media and humanitarian access restrictions have made it difficult to assess the situation on the ground.
In her statement Thursday, Patten noted that “medical centers have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict.”
She called for full humanitarian access to Tigray, including camps for displaced people “and refugee camps where new arrivals have allegedly reported cases of sexual violence.”
She voiced concern about “more than 5,000 Eritrean refugees in and around the area of Shire living in dire conditions, many of them reportedly sleeping in an open field with no water or food, as well as the more than 59,000 Ethiopians who have fled the country into neighboring Sudan.”
The caretaker administration in Tigray did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month state television broadcast footage of a meeting during which an unidentified man in a military uniform expressed concern about rapes in Mekele.
“Why are women being raped in Mekele city?” the man said.
“It wouldn’t be shocking had it been happening during the war, because it is not manageable so it could be expected. But at this moment while federal police and local police are back in town, it is still happening.”