The Prime Minister's Girl Summit showed that the Government is slowly waking up to the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM). Yet this encouraging step forward stands in the shadow of a much larger question: how is it that our fear of offending "culture" has allowed 137,000 girls living in England and Wales to have their genitals cut off? These hundreds of thousands of girls living in Britain – whose quality of life has been sacrificed to an ancient ritual of sexual control – deserve a clear answer.
For decades, those responsible for protecting the well-being of our British girls have looked the other way, choosing to protect the supposed cultural identity of groups rather than the human rights of the individual. According to FGM campaigner Leyla Hussain, "the biggest barrier has been lack of political will", followed by our need to "use the 'correct' language" when talking about FGM.
This reluctance to confront FGM has meant that, until this year, not one successful prosecution had taken place, despite the fact that specific legislation against FGM was put in place 30 years ago. Instead, we have left it to left it to members of communities affected by FGM – and not afraid of speaking out - to drag us up to speed. 17-year-old British student Fahma Mohamed has spent her teenage years getting in front of policy makers and demanding they take the issue seriously. This year she led the nationwide campaign against FGM – which was followed by a Home Affairs Committee report on FGM in the UK, and now Girl Summit.