Thursday, 18 June 2015

FGM and forced marriages: credit where credit is due

I could not understand when I read this article why Yasmin Alibhai-Brown gives all the credit for UK government action against female genital mutilation and forced marriages to personal intervention by David Cameron. Was it spite against Liberal Democrats entering coalition in 2010? A disagreement with Labour, whose MPs she claimed did nothing? Or currying favour for some unknown end? It's a mystery surpassed only by the lack of letters of objection to the Independent editor.

Whatever, the situation called for some fact-checking. Using the search facility on "They Work For You", I found that the first question in the previous parliament about FGM was from a Labour MP, Jim Sheridan, in June 2010. He received a positive answer from Stephen O'Brien at the International Development department. The cause was pursued by Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone both at the Home Office and later when she was moved to International Development. Lynne took the campaign to Africa. The first involvement of both David Cameron and Theresa May seems to have been in February 2013.

He seems to have spoken on forced marriage rather earlier: on 11th January 2012, nearly two years into the coalition, though he was name-checked by Lynne Featherston in 2011. Again, Lynne had taken the lead on this matter, together with Jeremy Browne at the Foreign Office and Conservative ministers Damian Green (before he was fired by the PM for being too liberal) and Anne Milton, not to mention the persistent pressure of Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill. Ms Alibhai-Brown could also have given credit to the former Labour MP Ann Cryer.

The SNP government in Scotland also deserves credit.

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