Newspaper article International New York Times

Britain to Crack Down on Genital Cutting ; Government Will Hold Parents Responsible and Bolster Efforts against It

Newspaper article International New York Times

Britain to Crack Down on Genital Cutting ; Government Will Hold Parents Responsible and Bolster Efforts against It

Article excerpt

Prime Minister David Cameron announced harsher penalties for those who subject girls to genital mutilation or forced marriage.

Parents in Britain who subject their daughters to genital mutilation will be prosecuted, Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Tuesday, a day after new research showed that the number of victims of the practice in the country is about twice as high as previously believed.

The announcement, which came during a global Girl Summit co- hosted by the British government and Unicef, heralds tougher legislation that for the first time makes it the parents' responsibility to protect their children. The law now only forbids genital cutting or taking a girl out of the country for that purpose.

Addressing some 500 delegates, including government officials, victims and campaigners like the Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, Mr. Cameron said he wanted to stamp out the practice "everywhere for everyone within this generation."

"It is such a simple but noble and good ambition, and that is to outlaw the practices of female genital mutilation and childhood and early forced marriage," he said.

A cultural rather than a religious practice, female genital mutilation mostly takes place in 29 African countries and in parts of Asia and the Middle East. It involves the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other types of injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons, according to the World Health Organization. Girls tend to be cut at a young age; generally they are between infancy and the age of 15. An estimated three million are at risk worldwide every year.

Genital mutilation has been illegal in Britain since 1985, but the first prosecutions took place only this year. Now the British government is pledging 1.4 million pounds, or about $2.4 million, to set up a new service focused on preventing genital mutilation by identifying those at risk. Teachers, social workers and health professionals are to receive specialized training, and police officers will be given guidance on how to handle new cases. …

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