The first ever Girl Summit is taking place in London, calling for an end to FGM and forced marriage. Co-hosted by UNICEF and the Government, in this week’s issue of Grazia, Prime Minister David Cameron tells Grazia why ending FGM and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) is such a priority
Why is it so important to tackle FGM and CEFM?
No one should be forced into marriage, or made to marry while they are still a child. And no one should have to go through the physical and psychological effects of FGM. Both of these practices are a violation of people’s rights.
Why is this summit happening now?
Here in the UK and around the world, more and more people are saying ‘no’ to FGM and CEFM. This summit will support and intensify those efforts, galvanising people around the world so we can say with one voice: ‘Let’s end these practices once and for all’. This Government has already taken significant action. We have made forced marriage a criminal offence, and taken unprecedented action on FGM within the UK. Internationally, we’ve honoured our commitment on international aid. We want to use this summit to build on that – to spur further action at home and abroad.
What are the biggest challenges?
FGM and CEFM are hidden issues. It’s often hard for those outside a family or community to know if a girl is at risk of being married against her will, or is at risk of FGM. We also need to counter the view that FGM is actually in the best interests of a girl. In some communities, FGM is a deeply rooted social practice that is considered essential for marriage. So we need to support communities who are working to change society’s expectations. Another challenge is to persuade people it’s a problem. Some might say, ‘This affects a small proportion of the population, so it’s not worth tackling’ or ‘This happens mainly in certain communities, so everyone else should leave well alone.’ I think those views are wrong. Every girl and woman, whatever their background, has the right to live free from violence and coercion.
Does having daughters bring these issues closer to home?
My eldest daughter, Nancy, is 10. When I read about people affected by FGM and CEFM, I’m often reading about girls who are her age. It’s a chilling thought that, if she was born in a different country, it would be quite normal for Nancy to be married within the next few years. That brings the problem home to me in the starkest, most personal terms – and I’m sure other parents feel the same.
What’s your message to Grazia readers who may feel FGM and CEFM don’t affect them?
The world will be a better place when women and girls stand alongside men and boys on an equal footing and realise their potential. Practices like FGM and CEFM stand in the way of that – and that’s why tackling them is so crucial to all of us.
If you are concerned about anyone who may be at risk of FGM, please call the police or the NSPCC’s FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550. Anyone concerned about a girl or woman at risk of forced marriage can call the Forced Marriage Unit on 020 7008 0151. Support the Girl Summit at girlsummitpledge.com