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'Girl summit' tackling FGM held in London

AFP

A woman covers her face as she takes part in a discussion on female genital mutilation (FGM) with other young women and men at an after school program for children's rights at Sheikh Nuur primary school in Hargeysa, Somalia on February 19, 2014A woman covers her face as she takes part in a discussion on female genital mutilation (FGM) with other young women and men at an after school program for children's rights at Sheikh Nuur primary school in Hargeysa, Somalia on February 19, 2014

A woman covers her face as she takes part in a discussion on female genital mutilation (FGM) with other young women and men at an after school program for children's rights at Sheikh Nuur primary school in Hargeysa, Somalia on February 19, 2014A woman covers her face as she takes part in a discussion on female genital mutilation (FGM) with other young women and men at an after school program for children's rights at Sheikh Nuur primary school in Hargeysa, Somalia on February 19, 2014

Britain and the UN's children's agency on Tuesday hosted the first ever 'Girl Summit' to mobilise international efforts to end female genital mutilation and child marriage, practices that affect millions of girls around the world.

Prime Minister David Cameron is set to announce at the London-based conference that parents in Britain will face prosecution for failing to prevent their daughters being subjected to FGM, along with a prevention programme.

"All girls have the right to live free from violence and coercion, without being forced into marriage or the lifelong physical and psychological effects of female genital mutilation," Cameron said in a statement.

"Abhorrent practices like these, no matter how deeply rooted in societies, violate the rights of girls and women across the world, including here in the UK.

"I want to build a better future for all our girls and I am hosting the Girl Summit today so that we say with one voice -- let's end these practices once and for all."

The summit will produce an "international charter" calling for the eradication of FGM and child marriage within a generation and new programmes to prevent child and forced marriage in 12 developing nations.

It brings together experts from around the world on issues affecting girls and young women.

The father of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who recovered from being shot in the head by the Taliban and is now a campaigner for girls' education, was among the speakers.

Co-hosts UNICEF warned in a report ahead of the summit that while the rate of FGM and 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 and women have experienced some form of FGM in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is most common, the UNICEF report said.

As well as pain from the procedure, girls who undergo FGM are at risk of prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and death, it added.

More than 700 million women worldwide were married as children, it added.

"The numbers tell us we must accelerate our efforts," said UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake.

"FGM and child marriage profoundly and permanently harm girls, denying them their right to make their own decisions and to reach their full potential."

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 and 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 and education authorities over many years to address what it said was an "extreme form of child abuse".

Date created : 2014-07-22