Immigrants ‘Should Sign FGM Declaration Before Entering UK’

Leading the fight: London MEP Marina Yannakoudakis (Picture: Glenn Copus)

Campaigners called for immigrants to be required to sign a declaration promising not to subject their daughters to genital mutilation before being allowed into Britain.

Leading figures in the fight against FGM called for a special pledge to be brought in to ensure everybody is clear that the practice is against the law.

London MEP Marina Yannakoudakis said she will raise the issue with the government and called for more research to identify other countries that have introduced declarations.

The idea of an FGM declaration was raised at a meeting of prominent London campaigners, organised by Ms Yannakoudakis to give their views on various anti-FGM initiatives.

She said: “As people choose to move to Britain or elsewhere in Europe, it seems relevant to remind them of the social standards that apply here.

“That should include an acceptance that certain practices are not only unacceptable but illegal. This proposal will form part of a package of recommendations which I plan to send to the UK Government and EU Commission.”

Academics, activists and charities including Manor Gardens in Islington and the Asian Women’s Network attended the conference yesterday.

Professor Hazel Barrett of Coventry University warned against relying solely on a declaration, because it could become a “well intentioned piece of paper”.

She warned it might encourage families to have girls cut before coming to the EU. It could also confuse matters for families who do not sign the pledge and so may feel they can go ahead and perform FGM on their daughters.

She instead called for immigrants to attend an anti-FGM workshop to explain the law, and for them to be given a “cultural mentor” who can explain the consequences.

She added: “Some signed paperwork that they have understood the legal situation could be a real deterrent as it could be used in any safeguarding or prosecution cases concerning these families.” The group was unanimously against physically examining young girls to ensure they have not undergone FGM. This is common in France, but London campaigners said the experience could be traumatic for children and parents would not agree to it.

The group also said FGM should be taught in secondary schools, but could be too traumatic for primary schools.

Ms Yannakoudakis said: “It is clear that if any initiatives on FGM are to work, they have to be run in co-operation with the relevant communities — otherwise they seem like something imposed rather than something to be embraced. Securing the support of influential figures and leaders is crucial in turning community awareness into action.”

– London Evening Standard