Clamping down on forced marriage and FGM worldwide: All hail this new piece of law

The British Government now has a legal obligation to consider how the aid it gives a foreign country can help the rights of women and girls worldwide – including, for example, reducing forced marriage and FGM – under new rules going through Parliament on Thursday. International development secretary Justine Greening explains the significance

Justine Greening

Justine Greening, International Development Secretary Photo: REX
When the 2010-2015 history of Parliament is written, there will be no shortage of pages on Coalition politics. Yet one of the most transformational and far-reaching achievements of this Parliament is due to be enshrined in law today without nearly as much glare or fanfare.

This landmark piece of UK legislation puts this and future governments under a legal obligation to place gender equality at the heart of all our overseas aid programmes. In other words, we must consider how we could help reduce forced marriage, or FGM, for example, when we giveBritish aid to overseas countries. It will be life-changing for millions ofoppressed girls and women all over the world.

Bill’s Bill

Perhaps most surprising of all is the man behind this historic piece of legislation: a 73-year-old Conservative MP better known for his pinstripe suits and Eurosceptic views than his long-standing, genuine and committed support for the rights of women worldwide. Yet for assiduously steering his Gender Equality in International Development Bill through Parliament over recent months, Bill Cash deserves the recognition of women everywhere.

Few Private Member’s Bills make it through to the statute books but this one has. Few bills receive the support of all three major parties but this one did. And very few Acts of Parliament have the potential to affect generations of girls and women around the world; but I believe this one does. All of this is testament to Bill Cash’s determination to take this Bill through every stage of Parliament, persuading the doubters and jumping nimbly through myriad political and procedural hoops. It’s no mean feat.

A link to the article can be found here.