On 7th March 2019 Baroness Jenkin of Kennington asked the Government “what steps they are taking to reduce the risk of female genital mutilation for girls in the United Kingdom and internationally.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the Government are to be congratulated on the various pieces of legislation that have been taken through. However, this is much more complex and is not simply a legal issue, as we have heard. That does not seem to solve the problem; it is clearly a cultural issue. The Minister has already referred to some of the attempts that have been made to change culture. What efforts are being made to talk to community leaders, who are some of the key people in those more traditional and sometimes hierarchical communities, to try to get the cultural change, so that this becomes an unacceptable practice and something which we really can see addressed?
Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government to work with community leaders to change culture and practice of FGM”
On 9th June 2016 Lord Berkeley of Knighton led a short debate to ask Her Majesty’s Government “what steps they intend to take in the light of NHS statistics showing that in 2015 over 1,000 cases of female genital mutilation were reported every three months and the lack of any successful prosecutions to date.” The Bishop of Derby, Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, spoke in the debate, highlighting the historic and cultural influences behind the practice and the work taking place at a local and grassroots level to reduce instances of FGM and support the law.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for introducing this vital debate and making the point that we need to keep this subject in the public domain to raise awareness and challenge people.
I want to offer some perspectives from my experience in Derby, where I operate as a bishop at grassroots level, to try to help understand why we are in this position and how we might best tackle things. Your Lordships will know that FGM is a very ancient practice going back to at least the fifth century BC. It was mentioned by Herodotus, especially in Egypt and Ethiopia, all that time ago. I remind noble Lords that FGM was practised until the 1950s in western countries as part of dealing with what was then called “female deviancy”. Things such as hysteria, epilepsy and lesbianism were dealt with by this horrific practice as an enlightened medical approach to those conditions. We have to recognise that it is not only deeply embedded in ancient culture, but until quite recently in the west, we have been implicated in using this barbaric method for medical reasons. Continue reading “Bishop of Derby highlights importance of local grassroots work in combating FGM”
On 6th January 2015 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Rev Alan Smith, received written answers to five questions of Government on female genital mutilation (or FGM):
Female Genital Mutilation
Asked by The Lord Bishop of St Albans
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they are resourcing the provision of training and education in communities in the United Kingdom in which female genital mutilation is practised.[HL3454] Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government about action on tackling FGM”
“…as well as hoping to get prosecutions, we need to work really hard on changing culture. Law is a blunt instrument. We have loads of laws on drugs and substance abuse and we try to enforce them, but, in that and other areas, we need to keep trying to get behind the issue which is causing the problem in the first place.”
On 11th December 2014, Labour Peer Baroness Rendell of Babergh led a debate in the House of Lords to ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to encourage prosecutions of offenders under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in the debate. He welcomed the Government’s Action Plan on FGM and the cross-party consensus on dealing with the issue. He noted that efforts had been made to strengthen the law on FGM through the Serious Crime Bill, but cautioned that existing legislation needed to be better enforced, if prosecution rates were to rise. He also called for a renewed effort to understand and challenge the cultural underpinnings of the practice, in order to see lasting change.
Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans calls for stronger enforcement and culture change to tackle lack of FGM prosecutions”
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, co-sponsored amendments 44 and 44a to the Serious Crime Bill, which concerned Female Genital Mutilation. He also contributed to the debate on amendment 44, stressing that the seriousness of harm done to the individual by acts of FGM was too great for it to be allowed in the UK under the principle of tolerance for alternative cultural and religious practices. Baroness Smith of Basildon the lead sponsor of the amendments concluded the debate on amendments 44 and 44a. Following the Ministerial statement reacting to the debate on the amendments Baroness Smith decided ot to press the amendments to a vote on the basis of further discussion before Third Reading.
Read the full transcript here: Continue reading “BISHOP OF ROCHESTER CO-SPONSORS AMENDMENTS TO SERIOUS CRIME BILL ON FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION”
“This modern crime is not just about technical ingenuity; it is about people choosing the freedom to abuse others and society” – Bishop of Derby, 16/6/14
On 16th June 2014, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, took part in the Second Reading debate on the Government’s Serious Crime Bill. In his speech, he addressed the Bill’s provisions to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking – having served on the Joint Committee which provided the pre-legislative scrutiny to the Modern Slavery Bill – and also the need for joined-up work across government and civil society to challenge the sub-culture of exploitation and greed that drives organised crime and criminality.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I very much welcome this Bill and think it is timely and appropriate. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and his colleagues at the Home Office on pointing us in this direction. Noble Lords will have seen in the briefing that it is based on a strategy described as the four Ps: Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare. For somebody like me, such laboured alliteration might indicate an overambitious sermon and I want to check the level of the ambition and what might be appropriate.
Continue reading “Bishop of Derby calls for strong partnerships between government and society to tackle serious crime”
Baroness Prosser asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that government departments work together to identify girls at risk of female genital mutilation and provide them with the necessary support.
The Bishop of St Albans asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I welcome the Secretary of State for Education’s commitment to provide the guidelines to schools on protecting children who are at risk of genital mutilation. Will the noble Baroness tell the House what further steps are being taken to provide for and to support properly trained counsellors who really understand the cultural background to this issue so that we are not only protecting children but supporting those who are at risk or may already have been abused?
Baroness Jolly: Work is going on with local communities. A £100,000 grant has been given to set up training so that people could work with NGOs and local schools to pick up exactly the type of issue that the right reverend Prelate has outlined.