Children Act 1989 (Amendment) (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:46 pm on 20th July 2018.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley of Knighton Lord Berkeley of Knighton Crossbench 12:46 pm, 20th July 2018

My Lords, I am grateful and humbled to receive such unanimous support around the House from such distinguished speakers, many with greater knowledge of these matters than I have. My noble and learned friend Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood reminded us what this involves, through the words of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Hale. The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, spoke about work in Africa. I could link that to what my noble friend Lord Alton said about work in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is worth reflecting that NGOs are making some progress with these communities. It was a great pleasure to have the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, speak. She is absolutely right to reinforce what the Minister said about this not being a religious matter; this is not in the Koran; it extends beyond simply one religion. It is not religious and it is wrong to be made to think that it is purely a Muslim matter.

It was lovely to have our new colleague on these Benches, my noble friend Lady Boycott, speak. From what she said then and in her maiden speech, there is no question but that she will be an extremely valuable addition to your Lordships’ House. I was grateful to her for mentioning the bravery of people such as Nimco Ali, who came to one of the debates I started, because that is the way in which we will educate people. The Minister mentioned education. “Education, education, education”—we have heard that before—but in this instance we have to get the word out. Prosecutions are important, but education is even more so.

I was grateful to hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Featherstone, who has such experience and passion to right these wrongs. Two distinguished surgeons and Members of your Lordships’ House, the noble Lords, Lord McColl and Lord Winston, have described to me the terrible things they face in the operating theatre when trying to repair this damage. The noble Baroness said that if our penises were shortened, we might mind more, but there is an important point here. As the noble Lord, Lord Winston, said, many people ask whether this is not the same as male circumcision. It is absolutely not. Whatever you may think about male circumcision —we probably all think different things—it is not done to decrease sexual pleasure. Some would argue that male circumcision results in that; I could not possibly say.

I was very pleased to hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, that the Labour Party will support us, because that in some ways is a tribute to the incredible work of Baroness Rendell, whom we all miss so much. Most of all, I am grateful to the Minister, who has been incredibly helpful. I look forward to working with her further on this matter.

It has been an extraordinary debate about something that we all care passionately about. I regard the human body as a kind of sacred vessel. What we do to our own body is one thing, but we should not allow other people to interfere with it in any circumstances. Having thanked everyone who has spoken, I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.