Parents who fail to prevent their daughter being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) will face prosecution under new legislation unveiled by the government at a summit in London.
A £1.4 million FGM Prevention Programme for survivors and those at risk were among plans announced by Prime Minister David Cameron at the Girl Summit, co-hosted by the government and Unicef.
The measures to combat FGM and forced marriage in the UK and abroad came as Unicef warned advances made in tackling them in the developing world could be reversed if the pace of action is not increased.
Mr Cameron said: “It’s such a simple but noble and good ambition, and that is to outlaw the practices of female genital mutilation in childhood and early forced marriage. To outlaw them everywhere, for everyone, within this generation. That is the aim.”
Mr Cameron said: “My eldest daughter is ten. Not that much younger than some of the children who get pushed into childhood or early marriage, not that much younger than girls who get cut and have their lives in so many ways taken away from them.”
Mr Cameron attended the summit in London along with International Development Secretary Justine Greening, Home Secretary Theresa May and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who has said the government will unveil plans to give teachers, doctors and social workers extra training to identify and help girls who might be at risk.
Other measures include new police guidance, as well as a specialist service to prevent child and forced marriage in 12 developing nations.
However, Unicef warned that while FGM and child marriage has fallen, population increases could reverse this. It said research showed that more than 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of FGM in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where it is most common. In addition, some 700 million women were married as children.
Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said: “The staggering numbers must compel us to act.”
Mr Cameron said the campaign ranks alongside the “great development challenges that we face”, such as poverty, malaria, TB and polio.
Earlier this month MPs warned that the failure to tackle the growing practice of female genital mutilation in the UK is a “national scandal”.
In a hard-hitting report, the Commons home affairs committee said it may be one of the most prevalent forms of “severe physical child abuse”, with an estimated 65,000 girls under the age of 13 at risk, with 170,000 women and girls in the UK estimated to have undergone FGM, the report said.