London Summit on Family Planning – Links with Female Genital Cutting?
Today, London will host a family planning summit, sponsored by the UK Government and the Gates Foundation – it will bring together the great and the good from across the world who are involved in this arena. At Orchid, we’ve been wondering about the links between family planning and ending female genital cutting.
I was lucky enough to meet Melinda Gates when at Davos a couple of years ago – I was impressed by her clarity around the issue of empowering women to be able to access contraception and the choice this allowed them to have.
It seems to us that female genital cutting so obviously violates a girl’s reproductive rights and sexual rights. The fact that girls’ bodies are put through FGC in this way by a social norm is, at heart, a reaction to ensuring that a girl’s virginity, chastity and fidelity remain controlled.
With type III FGC, the vagina is sealed closed through scar tissue. Women who have undergone the more extreme forms of FGC are “70% more likely to suffer post-partum haemorrhage and are twice as likely to die during childbirth and more likely to give birth to a stillborn child than other women, largely as a result of obstructed labour.” Thus the practice not only violates human rights, but it also poses serious threats to maternal health and the health of their children.
In the context of the Summit, this highlights the importance of ending FGC as a vital means of protecting women’s reproductive rights. These rights do not simply include access to contraceptives or even sexual and reproductive health services, but reproductive rights must also include security from bodily harm and violence such as FGC. FGC is a direct violation of a young girls’ body, breaching their human and reproductive rights.
In a Mumsnet webchat with UK’s International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, on Monday, he discussed the commitment of the UK government to making sure that the 120 million women in the 69 poorest countries who desperately want access to contraceptives have access to it. He highlighted the importance of bringing together donors, Governments, NGOs and the private sector in order to provide this important aid for women.
Within this webchat, the topic of FGC was brought up. Mr. Mitchell responded by saying that, “The UK Government has a clear position that female genital cutting is abhorrent and should end. It is a neglected issue in international development and a criminal offence in the UK. DFID currently supports extensive NGO programmes to end the practice and we believe that more needs to be done.”
Whilst we welcome the sentiment, we would seriously question whether the UK Government does currently support extensive NGO programmes to end female genital cutting and call for there to be more support for this crucial area – something that we know DFID is working on at the moment.