Jane Hutt, Deputy Minister and Chief Whip
Today marks International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) affects over 200 million women and girls worldwide. It is an expression of inequality that exists between the sexes and its far-reaching consequences include chronic pain, bleeding, recurrent infections and infertility.
FGM is borne out of misconceived notions of femininity, cleanliness and marital worthiness. This is not something that only happens in other countries; an estimated 137,000 women and girls in UK are living with FGM*. We committed in our National Strategy on Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence to challenge cultural attitudes which can underpin these traditional harmful practices. We are doing this by working with and supporting specialist BME violence against women services.
This week also marks Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week. There are events taking place around the country and I am making a presentation today at Gwent’s Inspiring for Change: Sexual Violence, VAWDASV and Safeguarding conference.
Sexual violence is predicated upon differential power and inequality. While we must never ignore the fact that boys and men experience sexual violence and abuse; women and girls are overwhelmingly the victims. In the year ending March 2017, 83% of victims of police recorded sexual offences were female, and 88% of rape victims were female**.
Unless we tackle gender inequality by raising awareness of these crimes, and challenge the attitudes that lead to them, we will never eradicate them. When we launched our ‘Don’t be a Bystander’ campaign, we did so with the hashtag, “Wales will not stand by.” I am calling on Assembly Members to stand together and commit to that statement in the fight to eliminate these harms.
*Macfarlane, A. Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in England and Wales: National and local estimates, 2015, City University London.
**Sexual offences in England and Wales: year ending March 2017, ONS..