Female Genital Mutilation is an abhorrent crime. It has been 30 years since FGM was first criminalised in the UK. In that time, unthinkably, there has not been a single successful prosecution.
Many rightly believe that the Government must make it a priority to correct this. But, at a time when an estimated 66,000 women are living with the consequences of FGM in the UK, and thousands of young girls at still at risk, we must also prioritise prevention and protection; to treat FGM with the seriousness that we understand and treat all other forms of child abuse.
Earlier this week, I listened to the powerful and harrowing testimony of a mother from Guinea, where almost 90% of women aged 15 - 19 have been 'cut’. Aissatou Diallo fled West Africa with her two daughters to protect them from FGM, and now campaigns tirelessly across two continents to end this barbaric practice.
Tomorrow, I will be speaking to the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians' Conference, in Gibraltar, about international co-operation on issues of women’s rights, and how, I believe, parliamentarians can help finish the work our constituents begin.
In that speech, my concluding remarks will focus on the incredible courage and determination of a young woman from my South West constituency; 17 year old Bristol student Fahma Mohamed.
Last year, Fahma’s online petition was signed by almost 250,000 people, and thrust the issue of FGM, from the darkest corners of our communities, onto the front pages and into the public consciousness.
This weekend, it is these women and the millions of young girls still at risk of FGM who we should have at the front of our minds, when we gather as women from across the commonwealth.
As parliamentarians, it is our responsibility to continue the work of Aissatou and Fahma. To deliver real legislative action and lasting change to protect and prevent more girls becoming victims of this appalling abuse, here and throughout the World.
For more information, please see the work of these two important organisations: