Hibo Wardere hails landmark case brought against Walthamstow mother, reports James Cracknell
A human rights campaigner has described the UK’s first female genital mutilation (FGM) conviction as a “landmark case” that will “send a message” to other would-be attackers.
The mother of a three-year-old girl from Walthamstow – who has not been named to protect the victim’s identity – was the first to be found guilty under FGM laws following a trial that ended in February. Last week at her sentencing the convicted 37-year-old woman, originally from Uganda, was given an 11-year jail sentence.
Hibo Wardere, also from Walthamstow, is one of the country’s leading anti-FGM campaigners and has been giving talks in local schools for several years. She said: “I was extremely emotional when I heard the news.
“This prosecution tells the community and anyone else who cuts their girls that children have rights and if you are caught you will be held accountable – you will pay the price.
“It is a huge landmark case, a historical one. There are repercussions. It sends a strong message that you will not get away with it and that children are respected and have rights and they will be protected. The ripples from this case are massive.
“It was the day I thought I would never see. I am very emotional, I am fighting back the tears.”
Last year the children’s charity NSPCC was contacted 313 times by people worried about girls who may have suffered, or might be at risk of, FGM. John Cameron, head of the charity’s Childline service, said: “FGM has been illegal in the UK for more than 30 years and the first successful prosecution for carrying out this horrific practice is a landmark victory for all FGM survivors.
“It takes courage to report concerns as many feel ashamed or worry they will betray friends and family. But we need to end the silence that surrounds FGM to better protect children.
“We can only hope that the outcome of this case will now give others the strength and the courage to speak out about this violent form of child abuse which has absolutely no place in society.”
As many as 100,000 women and girls in the UK are estimated to be FGM survivors, but only a small percentage of these have been discovered. Nearly half of the 7,000 cases reported by the NHS have come from London.
In a recent report the London Assembly set out a goal to make the capital a “zero cutting city”. Reacting to the first country’s FGM conviction, Jennette Arnold, London Assembly Member for Waltham Forest, said: “This is a landmark conviction that finally takes the female genital mutilation
law from theory to practice. FGM is a dangerous and repulsive act that we should never accept. All girls and all women have a right to feel safe in London.”
The London Assembly has also pledged it support to the Let’s Protect Our Girls campaign, which aims to raise awareness of FGM, and has called on the Mayor of London to provide more funding. Sadiq Khan said: “We will continue our fight to end female genital mutilation with every power we have.”