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All Somali women in Brent are FGM victims, campaigner says

PUBLISHED: 12:13 31 July 2015 | UPDATED: 17:27 31 July 2015

Ann John OBE is the former leader of Brent Council

Ann John OBE is the former leader of Brent Council

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All Somali women in Brent have been victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), according to the former leader of Brent Council who has spent decades campaigning on the issue.

Some of the blunt and dirty tool used to carry out FGM (Pic credit: Sala Lewis/Irish Aid via PA)Some of the blunt and dirty tool used to carry out FGM (Pic credit: Sala Lewis/Irish Aid via PA)

Ann John’s comments comes as a report from City University London highlights the borough as having the second highest incidence of the practice with 3.9 percent of women affected.

Southwark has the highest.

Ms John said: “The World Health Organisation concentrates on Africa as a priority with FGM, as it has the most countries and the highest incidences. It’s 98 per cent in Somalia for example. All the Somali women you look at in Brent have been fgmed.”

Ms John, who formerly represented the Stonebridge ward until last year put in her own report to Brent Council’s scrutiny panel..

The dossier named ‘Violence against women and girl, FGM, honour based killing and forced marriage’ held 12 recommendations including putting posters in all primary and secondary schools in the borough.

A long time campaigner on the issue Ms John was vilified in 1993 for opposing the then Conservative-run council from legalising the practice.

“In 1993, when this went to full council the Tories shamefully did not vote it down,” she said.

“You couldn’t speak about it in plain language then. It was known as female circumcision regarded as tradition and culture.

“In the intervening 21 years there’s not been an awful lot of change until recently. Because it was always an interest of mine I did the scrutiny report with cross party support, we took evidence from all the big campaign organisations and I didn’t realise how it would chime with the national campaign. ”

She added: “The figures upset me. I don’t know where we are up to with the recommendations of the scrutiny report.”

Cllr James Denselow, Brent Council’s cabinet member for stronger communities, said: “Brent has a comparatively higher number of people from communities around the world where FGM is most prevalent and while this helps to provide some context to these figures, it does not take away from the fact that one case of FGM in Brent, which is a horrific abuse of women, is quite simply one case too many.

“This is why tackling this and other forms of abuse against women and girls is a priority for the council and already we have worked with all our multi-agency partners including health, Police and education to introduce training for staff to raise awareness of FGM, to help them identify those at risk and help to put a stop this barbaric practice.

“However, it is only part of the solution, as while the council can make every effort to end FGM in the borough, it is not something that the council can do in isolation. This is an issue that requires everyone in Brent, including people in the communities most affected, to work together if we are to successfully combat FGM.”

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