At today’s meeting of the County Council all 71 Councillors made a stand against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and signed a zero tolerance charter against this extremely harmful practice.
Our message is clear. FGM is a violation of human rights and will not be tolerated in West Sussex.
The County Council has a strong history of uniting and providing a strong voice on issues, one example being a charter against child sexual exploitation, which we signed last year.
This particular charter on FGM was drawn up by a member of staff at the County Council and is a no-nonsense, hard-hitting pledge that clearly sets out our ‘zero tolerance’ approach as a council towards FGM in West Sussex. It was developed following a debate at our County Council meeting last December which called on the Council to support the campaign against FGM.
I believe we are one of the first councils to produce such a charter on FGM and I think this shows West Sussex leading the way on this important discussion and helping set out what is and what is not acceptable in society.
This is very timely – new figures were recently released by Unicef which estimate that more than 200 million females worldwide have experienced FGM – 70 million more than previously thought. The organisation predicts that this is likely to increase over the next 15 years. This is unacceptable and as an organisation we need to play our part in helping stamp out this brutal and barbaric practice.
That is why signing the charter, which has received unanimous cross-party support, is essential as we all need to work together across the county to prevent further victims of FGM.
We are asking our staff, partners, MPs and fellow councils to join us and take the pledge. One of our MPs, Henry Smith, has already signed the charter and has announced he is please to support our zero tolerance approach to FGM.
FGM is a difficult topic to raise and discuss, there’s no doubt about that, but it is so important that we break down the barriers and start a debate. The West Sussex Safeguarding Children Board, which is made up of organisations including the County Council, Police, NHS and other partners, will be holding a series of events this year to coordinate a local response to tackling FGM. This starts next month with an FGM Stakeholder Event.
There is already a lot of good work being carried out in the county to prevent further victims of FGM, but it is vital for us to all stand together to show a united front against this vicious act of cruelty.