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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:35 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Conservative, Richmond Park 7:35 pm, 11th March 2019

I could not agree more vehemently with my hon. Friend. FGM is not just a kind of child abuse; it is child abuse by any definition or metric.

I said earlier that FGM has no basis in medicine and, despite what we are often told, nor does it have any basis in any religion. The practice is often wrongly blamed on Islam—this can particularly be seen on social media—both by extremists who want to justify or, in some cases, even advocate FGM and by others who wish to use FGM as a stick with which to bash the religion itself. In fact, the practice predates Islam, and the Koran neither advocates nor justifies it in any way at all.

The consequences of FGM can be extreme. It can lead to severe pain, excessive bleeding, infection, menstrual problems, pain during sex and childbirth, and deep, long-lasting psychological trauma. In fact, the effects of FGM can, and often do, last for the duration of a person’s life. It is estimated that, around the world, at least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone FGM. In England and Wales, shockingly, the figure is around 137,000, although not all of them were subjected to FGM in either England or Wales.

I apologise to those of a sensitive nature, but during a recent urgent question on this issue, after the Bill was blocked by my hon. Friend Sir Christopher Chope, a number of colleagues raised concerns about male circumcision as if there were some kind of comparison between the two. Whatever our views on male circumcision, it must be obvious that it does not compare to FGM. The male equivalent of FGM would not be circumcision; it would be the removal of the entire head of the penis and much of the shaft, too.