Children Act 1989 (Amendment) (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:33 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Conservative, Walsall North 9:33 pm, 11th March 2019

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Fiona Bruce. It was also a pleasure to have been in the Chamber for the start of the debate to hear my hon. Friend Zac Goldsmith move the motion. It is particularly important, or relevant, that a male MP should be taking this Bill through, because men have so much responsibility for the fact that this practice exists in any form at all. My understanding is that there are examples of FGM in Egyptian mummies, so the practice has been historically prevalent for a very long time. If we ask ourselves why, we see that it is frequently at the behest of, or for the pleasure of, men. Men feel that it is an opportunity to subjugate women by controlling their sexual drive, controlling and containing their sexuality—what an incredible indictment that is. We would think perhaps that that was representative of some historical, barbaric practice that is no longer prevalent in the 21st century, but, as we have heard so many people say in this debate, 200 million women who are alive today could have been affected by FGM, and 135,000 of them are in this country.

Let us think about the stories we have heard. Members should imagine that they are a five-year-old girl who is just starting to feel comfortable in the world and safe and secure in the family and extended family group, when, all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, she is taken to a room, held down and subjected to this incredibly barbaric practice. Depending on where in the world a girl is when she experiences this, it could be done, perhaps if she is lucky—a dreadful use of the word—under some sort of medical circumstance in which at least antiseptic is involved and some sort of anaesthesia administered. But that might not be the case. It might simply be carried out by an old, probably female member of the community with a razor blade or, I have even heard, under incredibly barbaric circumstances, with a broken piece of glass. This is the 21st century—it is not a history lesson—and these things are happening now, on this planet. It is incredible and, as I said, frequently done as an example of how men like or choose to subjugate women.

Is it important that we address FGM? It is essential. It sends out a strong message that Parliament is debating FGM and projecting that message right across the world, in our work through DFID and the Commonwealth, to help others to understand just how seriously we take this issue. It is great to read reports that the Government have invested in the training of 70,000 staff in this country through an e-learning programme, to make sure that people in all areas of Government business understand what the effects could be and implications are, so that they can look out for signs of FGM. For example, people processing passport applications and things like that might understand that young women are being shipped abroad in order for this practice to be carried out.

As men, we should realise that we have a particular duty to speak out on this subject. It has been a pleasure to be part of the debate and to hear other male MPs making the case this evening. It is so great that Members on both sides of the Chamber are standing together.