On Monday, I’m tabling a motion that would commit Camden to a zero-tolerance approach to female genital mutilation (FGM) and

Unlike many council motions, this is neither partisan nor so woolly that it doesn’t mean anything. It commits the Council to looking at specific actions to make ‘zero tolerance’ into reality.

I’m grateful for feedback from Labour councillors, including the relevant Cabinet member, relevant Committee chair, and the whip, who ensured the motion could get Labour’s support and reflected a cross-party commitment to tackling FGM.

Below is the text of the motion:

This Council notes that female genital mutilation (FGM) is child abuse and part of systematised violence against women. It causes severe harm to girls, and that life- long harm remains with women that have been subjected to it: creating generations of victims. 

Many girls undergoing FGM die from blood loss or infection, and survivors of FGM are more likely to have difficulty giving birth and often understandably suffer from long-term psychological trauma. 

According to one estimate, 3,000 women and girls living in Camden have suffered genital mutilation: representing 3,000 lives marred by the practice. This requires Camden to be the forefront of combatting the scourge of FGM. 

As part of a global city, Camden is home to myriad cultural practices. This Council recognises the importance of that diversity, and believes that that diversity is strengthened, not weakened, when girls and women of all backgrounds are protected from abuse, and so commits to stamping out this appalling crime. 

Camden is home to the NHS’s only dedicated service to support children victims of FGM, at UCLH, which supports victims, but also permits the review of cases where FGM is suspected but not confirmed. 

This Council regrets that although FGM has been illegal in any circumstance since 1985, it took until 2015 to bring the first prosecution and until this very month to secure the first conviction. This Council welcomes the recent increased awareness of FGM.

This Council condemns fully and unreservedly those that perform, facilitate, or encourage FGM, and as part of our commitment to tackle all forms of child abuse, commits itself to a zero-tolerance approach to wiping it out entirely.

This Council acknowledge the excellent work done by Camden on the issue locally as highlighted also by the recent Ofsted inspection that commended the local authority and its partners’ approach to tackling FGM, stating:

“Social workers receive training and support that enable them to be knowledgeable, confident and skilled in working with children with high-level risks to their safety and welfare. The identification and support offered to children and their families faced with risks of forced marriage or female genital mutilation are timely and effective in substantially reducing risks.”

This Council recognises however that there is so much more to do in order to eradicate this horrible practice and to that end, this Council directs officers to bring a report to Scrutiny Committee commenting and advising on: 

  • Best practice in other local authorities so as to ensure that Camden’s approach is no less robust than anywhere else in the United Kingdom, and that the Council continues to cooperate effectively with the police, prosecution services, NHS, and other third parties;
  • Whether and how the Council is using all powers available to it, including using FGM Protection Orders (FGMPOs) proactively and systematically to protect children at risk of FGM;
  • How the duty to act and report if a child is at risk of harm from FGM is being implemented by schools, other educational settings, and social workers in Camden; and further whether the Council could and should increase reporting obligations for teachers and social workers in the borough beyond that required by statute;
  • The impact of the Council’s awareness campaigns (including FGM resource packs sent to all schools, GPs, and children’s centres) and whether the information available on our website sufficiently supports staff and residents to understand more fully (a) the harm caused by FGM and its status as a criminal offence in the United Kingdom; (b) any duties to report known or suspected FGM; (c) resources they may find useful in combatting or discouraging FGM; and (d) how to access support, including how to apply for an FGMPO as a third party;
  • An assessment of the Council’s progress in preventing and addressing FGM, and providing support for those who have been subjected to it.

This Council further directs officers to lay an annual report on progress to combat FGM in front of the Council’s relevant scrutiny committees until that Scrutiny Committee determines otherwise.  This report may accompany the report of the relevant Cabinet member or a report covering other safeguarding responsibilities