Justine Greening: ‘Use horror shown by FGM campaign to stop forced marriages too’

The campaign to end female genital mutilation will be extended to stamp out forced marriages as well, International Development Secretary Justine Greening announced today.

She said the Evening Standard has played a crucial part in highlighting the horrors of FGM, and she now wants to use the momentum to stop girls being made to marry against their will.

One girl in nine in developing countries marries before the age of 15 and Ms Greening said British girls are also at risk of being sent abroad for early marriage.

She added: “For a lot of London parents and young girls growing up in London these could be the girls in their class. Similarly with FGM it’s time we started talking about this nationally and internationally, to raise the profile and say it is not acceptable.”

The minister  said she is determined to “scale up” the UK’s work to stamp out early marriage, which leaves girls in some communities seen as “more assets than people”.

Last year the UK forced marriage unit dealt with 1,302 cases, and a quarter of those were in London.

Around 200 of those seeking help from the unit were girls aged 15 or under.

Speaking about the impact early forced marriage has on girls, Ms Greening said: “At the very time when they might be people who are full of hope and looking forward to what they can achieve, actually the exact reverse happens and their world completely shrinks.”

Child brides are also more likely to die from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, become infected with HIV, suffer from domestic violence and live in poverty, according to campaign group Girls Not Brides.

Ms Greening admitted it can be difficult to hear details of forced marriage, citing the case of an eight-year-old girl in Yemen who died on her wedding night after suffering from internal bleeding. She had been forced to marry a man five times her age and the case caused uproar when it became public in September.

Today’s announcement comes amid growing calls for FGM to be stamped out, and after the British Government pledged £35 million to help eliminate it in a generation. Ms Greening said: “I pay tribute to the Evening Standard for being a leading paper in our country that has brought this campaign to the majority of Londoners.”

She will speak tonight at a Southbank event organised by Plan UK, Girls not Brides and the Gender and Development Network.

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