On Wedneday 1st February, Ruth Maguire MSP contributed to a Holyrood debate marking the forthcoming International Day of zero tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on 6th February.

According to UNICEF at least 200 million girls have been subjected to the practice of FGM across 30 countries but the exact number remains unknown. It is found in 28 African countries, and also in South East Asia and the Middle East. It is also found in Europe and in Scotland in some ethnic groups originating from these parts of the world.

The Scottish Government recently published its four year National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate FGM 2016-2010, which states that the Scottish Government considers FGM to be an unacceptable and illegal practice, a form of abuse and a violation of the human rights of women and girls. The Action Plan commits to preventing and eradicating it in Scotland through working with a range of statutory and third sector organisations as well as with and within FGM practising communities.

Ruth welcomed the approach of the National Action Plan, saying:

‘Female Genital Mutilation is a reprehensible and completely unacceptable illegal practice that no child should have to suffer. But if it is easy to condemn, it is less easy to eradicate.

FGM is a complex, sensitive and often hidden issue, to which there is no easy fix. It is rooted in what are, to many of us, alien and, appalling, traditions, and when it comes to engaging with FGM practising communities, there are often language as well as cultural barriers to contend with. But the only way to truly eradicate FGM is to eradicate the damaging attitudes and cultural traditions that underpin it.’

Ruth also highlighted how the Action Plan to takle FGM is inextricable from the Scottish Government’s wider Equally Safe strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls, and stressed how we all have a responsibility to tackle gender inequality.

Speaking in the debate, Ruth said:

‘FGM is at its most fundamental an extreme form of violence against girls and women and is rooted in gender inequality and discrimination. Providing good services for victims and survivors is crucial but we also have to start recognising the context in which this violence is taking place.

A culture where everyday sexism and the objectification of women is the norm is conducive to violence and must be challenged if we are to make a lasting difference to the lives of women and girls.

Let’s start right now by agreeing not to tolerate any objectification of women, in our own or in any other culture.’