Institute of Policing hosts conference addressing the issues of honour based violence and female genital mutilation

Posted on 9th October 2017

A conference promoting a multi-agency approach to managing honour based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) has taken place at the Warrington Campus of the University of Chester.

Delegates at the Institute of Policing’s conference promoting a multi-agency approach to managing honour based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, which took place at the Warrington Campus of the University of Chester.
Delegates at the Institute of Policing’s conference promoting a multi-agency approach to managing honour based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, which took place at the Warrington Campus of the University of Chester.

The one-day event, which was hosted by the Institute of Policing, included guest speakers from several multi-agency disciplines, all of whom have experience of dealing with some or all aspects of honour based violence, forced marriage or FGM, and their associated impact upon victims, families and communities.

The keynote speaker was Angie Marriott, Director of Diversity Employment Solutions Ltd. Angie is a cross cultural diversity consultant and registered nurse, who works with the police, all the statutory agencies, and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations). She also works at grass roots level with men and women from practising communities. As a gynaecology nurse on a women’s health unit in the mid 1980s, Angie first became aware of the issue of FGM when FGM survivors came for corrective surgery, and little was known about the subject. Angie has campaigned for the eradication of FGM since the 1980s and put FGM on Unison’s agenda and in workplace Domestic Violence policies. Angie is also a Visiting Lecturer at the Institute of Policing.

She said: “The conference was an excellent day pioneered by the University of Chester’s Institute of Policing that brought together a wealth of public sector multi agencies and NGOs. It was outstanding in promoting and raising awareness about the complexities of managing and safeguarding girls and women from FGM, and about the cultural barriers faced in managing FGM, honour based violence and forced marriage. The attendance was excellent, as was the feedback. A key message from delegates was that they felt they had learned so much more from attending the conference, and that it addressed many gaps and deficits in knowledge. They were thrilled that the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, Sareda Dirir, was able to attend and support the event, and she spoke positively about the importance of policing these issues and the need to support survivors.”

Sareda Dirir, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, added: “I was delighted to be asked to speak at this excellent partnership conference. It is absolutely imperative that we work together to address the issues of Female Genital Mutilation, so-called honour-based abuse and forced marriage. These terrible crimes are happening every day, in our communities, and in some cases even next door. It is both our duty and responsibility to come together and explore how we can work collaboratively to keep our communities safe.”

People attended from a range of agencies including Health, Education, Social Services, UK Border Force, Police (GMP, Merseyside and Cheshire), child protection officers, doctors, surgeons, midwives, radiographers, community groups and research students. Specialists from other BME organisations in the area (Warrington, Oldham and Manchester) attended, as did delegates from the Swedish Government and Finland.

A variety of speakers from across public life presented their experiences.  The most moving, harrowing and inspiring speeches of the day came from two survivors, whose personal experiences focussed the minds of the audience. They have chosen to go public with their personal stories, to inspire other survivors, to encourage them to share their stories publicly and to also raise awareness of the ordeal experienced by thousands of women every year.

Patricia Olukemi Ajayi gave her account of surviving Female Genital Mutilation. She recalled how, as a very young child, she thought she was attending a party, only to find herself a victim of FGM (at the hands of her grandmother) during that event. She talked about the trauma, flashbacks, and how she relives that day on a daily basis. She is now a registered mental health nurse.

Angie said: “FGM is not openly talked about and is well known as a sensitive hidden crime of the community. Patricia sent a powerful message to Conference by speaking about her experience of FGM. She urged delegates to seek help from the police and statutory agencies and to encourage all FGM survivors to seek support for the long-term psychological and physical effects of FGM.

“We know that there are now FGM cutting centres in areas of the UK. In addition, cutters are being flown into the UK to hold FGM gatherings, also known as ‘FGM cutting parties’, where large numbers of girls are cut. To date there has not been one single FGM prosecution here in the UK. More needs to be done to encourage professionals to report FGM to the police. A key factor that affects professionals reporting FGM is the fear of being labelled racist, and the lack of confidence in tackling the culturally sensitive issues. This must be done through more education.”

Conference attendees also heard from Rashid Begum, who spoke about her own personal experiences as a survivor of honour based violence and forced marriage. Rashid has dedicated both her professional and private life to ensuring that others at risk are protected. Just before the age of 18, she was tricked into travelling to Pakistan on the pretence of a holiday and when she resisted forced marriage, she was severely beaten and feared she would be killed. To escape, she was smuggled out of Pakistan but had to return to the family home, where the violence continued and she was attacked with scissors. She fled and was pursued by her family. Today, Rashid still has no communication with her birth family. Rashid is a former police officer and qualified lawyer.

Other speakers included: DCI Dave Rooney of Merseyside Police, who discussed the challenges that the Police face over such crimes; Cheryl Hramiak, Head of the Crown Prosecution Service in Manchester, who explored the issues faced by the CPS in managing honour based violence and the legislation; and PC Fiona Clements, from Stansted Airport Police, and David Harrison, FGM lead for Manchester Airport in the UK Border Force, gave accounts of their involvement in Operation Limelight, which involves proactive operations looking at inbound and outbound flights to ‘countries of prevalence’ for FGM. Professor Jonathan Crego, creator of the Hydra immersive learning system used by police forces and other organisations to simulate real life crime scenarios, also discussed the complexities of safeguarding against these crimes.

Everett Henry, Director of CommTAS, gave a talk exploring the diversity challenges in the public sector. Everett was the national lead for Equality, Diversity and Human Rights (EDHR) within the police service, working on high profile issues. He has worked across the breadth of the Criminal Justice System and developed the National Independent Advisory Group Guidance Document.

Everett said “The conference was a truly informative and thought provoking day. We are dealing with an issue which I call 'carbon monoxide’. We cannot see it, we cannot touch it but it is there. I do hope all those attended have gone back to their respective areas of work with renewed vigour to sensitively engage, educate and challenge this hidden crime through a multi agency approach. CommTAS with Angie Marriott will be happy to advise.”

The conference was organised by Simon Price, a Lecturer at the Institute of Policing, who worked with Angie Marriott to bring the outstanding group of speakers together. Simon is now working with Angie, and Everett Henry to re-energise and modernise Independent Advisory Groups by seeking to extend their availability across all multi-agency organisations, rather than simply the police, to bring IAGs in line with a society which has become more diverse and complex. Public services continue to face unprecedented challenges, which has required public services, following recommendations from previous inquiries, to respond and adapt to new ways of working to safeguard vulnerable groups. Simon, Angie and Everett believe that a Multi Agency Independent Advisory Group (MAIAG) will shape the future approach to such issues, by endorsing a more comprehensive, multi agency, partnership. Patricia Ajayi has also agreed to join such a group in order to help other survivors.

Simon said: “It was important to me that the Institute of Policing hosted this conference and brought so many agencies together, to share knowledge and best practice; to raise awareness of legislation and procedure in respect of Honour Based Violence, Forced Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation; to highlight the need for agencies to adopt a right first time approach to dealing with these issues; and to explore solutions in respect of overcoming cultural barriers and engaging with hard to reach BME communities. According to Home Affairs Committee statistics, there are over 170,000 survivors of Female Genital Mutilation in the UK, with a further 65,000 girls under 13 at risk.

“Understandably, the Institute has been very mindful that Warrington is the home town of Shafilea Ahmed and it felt appropriate that this conference took place here. We used the opportunity to honour her memory, to discuss the role of Cheshire Police in bringing her case to justice, and the use of the Independent Advisory Group’s dedication and commitment to advising the police during the investigation. Angie spoke about her role as Chair of Cheshire Police’s IAG, advising the Constabulary throughout the Shafilea trial. (The IAG provides the police with independent guidance and advice in representing the views of minority communities and also acts as a critical friend to the police.)

“We wanted to send out a clear message to all agencies that we must have a partnership approach to safeguarding women and girls from such harrowing situations as those discussed during this conference.”

Geoff Elvey, Head of the Institute of Policing, added: “My thanks and congratulations to all those who made this such a successful and informative event. The turnout was fantastic, the speakers all very knowledgeable and there was some very thought provoking debate. Those who attended will be able to take what they learned into their professional practice, and, more importantly, it raised the issue above the parapet. At the Institute, we believe we now need to keep this momentum going. Our intention is to arrange a follow-up event early in 2018, which may also look at wider public protection issues.

“The IoP will continue to work with Angie Marriott and Professor Crego of the Hydra Foundation to develop an immersive learning programme for FGM within the Hydra facility.”

As part of its Research Seminar Series, the University of Chester’s Institute of Gender Studies is hosting a talk by Somali-born FGM survivor, Hibo Wardere, who is an anti-FGM campaigner, activist and author. The talk takes place at the University’s Hollybank Building (Room 009), which is opposite the Parkgate Road Campus, on Thursday, October 12 at 5pm. All are welcome to attend. For further information, please contact Professor Emma Rees, Director of the Institute of Gender Studies, by emailing e.rees@chester.ac.uk