London (AFP) – British Prime Minister David Cameron called on Tuesday for a worldwide ban on female genital mutilation & child marriage as he launched the first UN-backed "Girl Summit" on issues that affect millions around the globe.
Cameron announced that parents in Britain would face prosecution for failing to prevent their daughters from being subjected to FGM, while setting out steps to tackle both practices in developing nations.
"Our aim is to outlaw FGM & child marriage everywhere for everyone," Cameron told the summit in London, to applause from an audience of experts & campaigners from around the world.
p>FGM, which affects tens of millions of women, particularly in the Horn of Africa, ranges from removal of the clitoris to the mutilation & removal of other female genitalia. It can leave girls at risk of prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility & even death.
Cameron acknowledged that ending FGM & child marriage was no effortless task, saying they ranked alongside the global health threats of polio & tuberculosis in terms of the commitment needed to tackle them.
But he argued: "All girls have the right to live free from violence & coercion, without being forced into marriage or the lifelong physical & psychological effects of female genital mutilation.
Map of Africa showing countries where female genital mutilation is most prevalent, created on Februa …
"Abhorrent practices like these, no matter how deeply rooted in societies, violate the rights of girls & women across the world, including here in the UK.
"I want to build a better future for all our girls & I am hosting the Girl Summit today so that we say with one voice — let's end these practices once & for all."
The summit, which is co-hosted by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), will produce an "international charter" calling for the eradication of FGM & child marriage within a generation.
The summit will moreover launch new programmes to prevent child & forced marriage in 12 developing nations.
Speakers at the event included Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who recovered from being shot in the head by the Taliban & is now a campaigner for girls' education.
Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai (L) listens to British Prime Minister David Cameron as he …
"We should have the right to alter traditions & we should make the changes. We ask that there be no more FGM or child marriage," Malala told the summit.
"We should not be followers of traditions that go against human rights… we are human beings & we make traditions."
– 'Accelerate our efforts' –
UNICEF warned in a new report that while the rate of FGM & child marriage has fallen over the past three decades, population increase in developing nations alone could reverse this trend if "intensive action" is not introduced.
More than 130 million girls & women have experienced some form of FGM in the 29 countries in Africa & the Middle East where the practice is most common, it said.
Indian actress & Plan International Girls' Rights Ambassador Freida Pinto listens to speakers …
More than 700 million women worldwide were married as children, UNICEF added.
"The numbers tell us we must accelerate our efforts," said UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake.
"FGM & child marriage profoundly & permanently harm girls, denying them their right to make their own decisions & to reach their full potential."
Cameron confirmed that Britain would introduce legislation under which doctors & teachers would be required by law to report FGM, while parents who allow their daughters to be cut will be prosecuted.
British lawmakers earlier this month said the prevalence of FGM in the country was a "national scandal", warning that up to 170,000 women may have had the procedure & another 65,000 young girls were at risk.
A damning report from the House of Commons home affairs committee condemned the failure of the government, police, health & education authorities over many years to address what it said was an "extreme form of child abuse".
Society & CultureHuman Rightsfemale genital mutilationLondonchild marriage