Female Genital Mutilation

by Anthony Melnikoff JP

In November 2018 a conference took place under the auspices of the Barnet Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Forum. The title was Harmful Practices and the emphasis was on harm arising from certain cultural and religious practices. The topic was, by its nature, a highly sensitive one, and focused on three main areas: honour based violence, both physical and non physical; forced marriage; and female genital mutilation (FGM).

Violence of any kind is illegal in the UK, whether honour based or otherwise. Taking this in a wider context, and putting it into a domestic setting, this includes, not only physical abuse, but also psychological, emotional, sexual, and financial, and since 2013 coercive and controlling behaviour has also been included under the definition. Forced marriage has been illegal in the UK since 2014. The number of successful prosecutions under both of the last two headings has been small relative to the number of reported (and alleged non reported) incidents, but at least the offences are now being taken seriously.

The first successful prosecution for FGM took place in February 2019, this despite it having been illegal in the UK, other than for medical reasons, since 1985, the current legislation dating from 2003! There have been three previous prosecutions, but all resulted in acquittal. The offender was a 37 year old woman, the victim her 3 year old daughter. The mother claimed her daughter had “fallen on metal and ripped her private parts” while reaching for a biscuit, and she had “coached” her daughter to repeat this to the police. The prosecution also provided evidence of items being used for witchcraft being found in the mother’s home.

The maximum sentence for this offence is fourteen years imprisonment. At the time of writing the offender is still awaiting sentence. Lynette Woodrow from the CPS said:

“Female genital mutilation has an appalling physical and emotional impact on victims that usually lasts their entire life. We can only imagine how much pain this vulnerable young girl suffered and how terrified she was. A three-year-old has no power to resist or fight back. Her mother then coached her to lie to the police so she wouldn’t get caught but this ultimately failed … We will not hesitate to prosecute those who commit this sickening offence.”

A recent report from the World Health Organisation claims that:

  • FGM is practised in 30 countries in Africa and some in Asia and the Middle East.
  • An estimated three million girls and women worldwide are at risk each year.
  • About 125 million victims estimated to be living with the consequences
  • It is commonly carried out on young girls, often between infancy and the age of 15
  • Is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, to prepare a girl or woman for adulthood and marriage and to ensure “pure femininity”
  • Dangers include severe bleeding, problems urinating, infections, infertility and increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths

In March 2018 an NHS report estimated that around 137,000 women and girls in the UK are affected by FGM, including 6,000 cases reported in the previous twelve months.

So although the first successful prosecution has now taken place in the UK, there is an enormous amount of work to be done before the practice is eliminated both here and worldwide.

Bulb Planting Film produced by students from Middlesex University for Holocaust Memorial Day 2019

For Holocaust Memorial Day 2019, we are releasing a short film in collaboration with Big Grange Local, Barnet Multi-faith Forum, and the residents of East Finchley. BA Film students from Middlesex recently produced the short film about a community bulb planting day, as part of a Barnet Council initiative to remember every one of the 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust. The event brought together people from multiple different faiths to plant a memorial garden dedicated to those who have lost their lives as a result of religious persecution. The film features Amina Qadi, a young woman from the Somali Bravenese community who has been very active in multi-faith dialogue in the area around East Finchley. In 2013, the Somali Bravenese community centre was burnt down, an act of hate crime. The local Jewish community responded by inviting them to pray at the local synagogue. In an act of solidarity, Amina dedicates the bulb planting to the 11 people who lost their lives in the shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on 27th October 2018. Production Coordinators: Dr. Helen Bendon, Nayomi Roshini, Media Department, Middlesex University. Production Team: Nikoleta Slezakova, Cloe Peker, Sara Veiga, Bruna Ventura, Patrycja Lisowska, Dariush Asadi, Randy Mankoto Interviewees: Amina Qadi, Natan Levy, Julia Hines, Esmond Rosen and Leo Smith Middlesex University 2019

Barnet CTN Bulletin Dec 2018

You can download the latest copy of the CTN bulletin here.

This is the final CTN bulletin of the year and at this time of the year, we would like to reflect and to celebrate Barnet’s wide cultural, religious and diverse community.

CTN has recognised the unwelcome rise of intolerance and extremism and our response with the Barnet Multi Faith Forum showed our support to those affected by the Pittsburg massacre. We also all came together to support our residents in the Willow House fire last month.

The work in 2019 will further build upon the development of partnership working, sharing, supporting and to create a strong, successful and shared community for Barnet. The CTN continues to resolve issues of community concern, explore solutions, meet community needs and to help find funding.

May we wish you a peaceful end to 2018 and a brighter future for 2019.

Festive wishes from the Community Participation & Engagement Team

IANL – Night Shelter for Homeless in Barnet

night-shelter-for-the-homelessIANL is proud to be acting as a night shelter for the homeless in Barnet. Working in collaboration with Together in Barnet. 

IANL will open its doors at 7:30 pm every Wednesday (starting 19/12/18) where it will serve a hot meal and provide a place to sleep. The shelter will close at 8:30 am the next morning shortly after serving breakfast. 

If you would like to volunteer and take part in this initiative by making food, serving guests, supervising their stay, or staying overnight with them, then please sign up

2018 London Faith & Belief Community Awards

faith-belief-certificate-232232241808_b0980331d0_bBMFF was recognised projects for services to and for faith and belief communities at the 2018 London Faith & Belief Community Awards.

This was presented to us by the Lord –Lieutenant of Greater London Sir Kenneth Olisa OBE

The event at the Royal Society of Medicine, celebrated the unsung heroes of London’s faith and belief communities.

The worthy winners of our category for Interfaith Relations went to the Muslim Jewish Forum of Stanford Hill (Hackney) which was the first formal organisation of its kind in the UK bringing together members of two faiths.

There was one other Barnet winner which recognised that of the Christmas Lunch on Jesus Project Jesus House http://www.jesushouse.org.uk/ in the Health and Wellbeing category to whom we offer our warmest congratulations. 

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BMFF signs up to The Charter for Faith & Belief Inclusion

Barnet Multi Faith Forum has signed up to The Charter for Faith & Belief Inclusion and to help to achieve their Goals.

Principles

  1. We believe in an inclusive society where people of different faiths and beliefs have strong and positive relations. We believe that intolerance has no place in our communities or workplaces, and that diversity adds value to our society.
  2. By connecting people of different faiths and beliefs, we can create a society which is fair to people of all backgrounds – religious and non-religious. We encourage people to engage more across differences and learn to understand each other better.
  3. We recognise the need to create a more open conversation about faith and belief in our communities and in all of the UK. We will have these conversations in a spirit of mutual respect and curiosity, and be open to different perspectives.

BMFF was also recognised for services to and for faith and belief communities in Greater London.