The UK government is to unveil new, harsher measures against FGM. Photo: Getty
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Cameron pledges tougher law on FGM

The Prime Minister, hosting the Girl Summit in London today, will announce new, stronger measures against female genital mutilation.

Today, the Prime Minister will announce harsher measures against female genital mutilation (FGM) at a global summit with Unicef in London, called the Girl Summit. The new rules he will announce include a change to the law so that parents are responsible for protecting their daughters from cutting and face prosecution if they fail to protect them, and will also grant victims lifelong anonymity.

David Cameron will also introduce a £1.4m prevention programme, which is intended to help stop the practice and to help the NHS care for victims. Additionally, he is expected to announce new guidance for police on how to handle cases of FGM.

Speaking before the summit, Cameron said

All girls have the right to live free from violence and coercion, without being forced into marriage, or the lifelong physical and psychological effects of female genital mutilation. Abhorrent practices like these, no matter how deeply rooted in societies, violate the rights of girls and women across the world, including here in the UK.

What is notable about these measures is that the PM is thinking about what Britain can do nationally to stamp out the practice here – where more than 137,000 women in England and Wales are living with the consequences of FGM, according to a recent study – rather than separating it as an international development issue.

Proper punishments for parents who subject their daughters to such treatment, or at least neglect to stop it happening, have been a long time coming. The last big change to legislation in this country regarding FGM was in 2003. This was when David Blunkett as Home Secretary backed a Bill that became the Female Genital Mutilation Act, which built on the provisions of the 1985 Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act, giving powers beyond the UK's borders (preventing people taking young girls abroad for them to be cut), and increasing the maximum penalty from five to 14 years' imprisonment.

However, the first person in Britain to be successfully charged using this legislation was a doctor in March this year.

The new laws Cameron will unveil are only just coming about, and progress on legislating on this subject has been relatively slow, because the government and authorities have hitherto feared being culturally insensitive or incendiary by concentrating on stopping FGM being carried out in this country. It seems they are now waking up to a practice that is brutal and unacceptable, and one that is all too prevalent in Britain, as well as globally.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.