James Cleverly speaks in a debate on the Third Reading of the Private Member’s Bill to outlaw Female Genital Mutilation and calls on the Government send a clear message the religious and cultural sensitivities cannot and must not be used as a shield to hide behind when practices such as this are being discussed.
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) on opening this Third Reading debate. I have just come from a meeting in the Boothroyd Room of Sierra Leonean women who are discussing their attempts to eradicate FGM in Sierra Leone. The First Lady has recently sent rather mixed messages about FGM and has relied on cultural practice as a part justification. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to send out a very clear message that religious and cultural sensitivities cannot and must not be used as a shield to hide behind when practices such as this are being discussed either in school or in this place?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that point. We should not allow anybody to hide behind religious or cultural practices when it comes to relationships and sex education. Every child in this country deserves to understand how these issues affect them, and the Government are absolutely right to have made it mandatory for children to attend relationships and sex education. It is particularly important that relationships education has been made mandatory among primary school aged children; it is only by teaching children what a good relationship looks like that we can hope to be able to give them the wherewithal to tackle the online world in which they live. That is a very important enabler that the Government need to ensure is in place. It is not enough for them simply to pass this Bill today, to put it on to the legislative books. They need to ensure that parents are engaging with it and that teachers are confident about the issues so that they can talk to parents.