I congratulate my hon. Friend Zac Goldsmith on introducing the private Member’s Bill to deal with this important issue.
Last week we celebrated International Women’s Day, a joyous occasion on which women and girls came together to celebrate their achievements, the women who helped them to realise those achievements and our victories on the long road to equality. Today’s debate reminds us of not just how far we have come, but of how far we still have to go.
FGM is a barbaric practice that has no place in the world today. It is often, as other Members have said, performed by a local cutter—not by someone with any medical skills—in a barbaric way without pain relief. The affected women have their genitals cut into such a state that they end up with significant long-term consequences. As well as the short-term consequences of pain, trauma, shock and bleeding—in some areas of the world where there is little access to medicine, such bleeding can lead to serious infection, sepsis and death—women may experience difficulties passing urine that can go on into the long term, incontinence, frequent and chronic urinary tract infections, pelvic infections, problems with menstruation, kidney failure, cysts and abscesses, difficulties with sexual intercourse and complications with childbirth.
Complications with childbirth are particularly prevalent among those who have had the procedure of infibulation, which is where the vaginal opening is made much smaller. There is the possibility of reversing or undoing that procedure during pregnancy in advance of labour, if midwives and surgeons are aware of it, but women may be left with significant mental health problems afterwards. Some women feel very uncomfortable about the fact that the procedure has been undone, and their family may treat them differently as a result. Indeed, as other Members have suggested, some women will have been sewn up by the time the next pregnancy occurs.