British Conservative MP Christopher Chope, who last year singlehandedly blocked an upskirting law because of his long opposition to bills proposed by backbenchers and not the Government, is under fire again for blocking another private members’ bill.
This time, the law being debated was an amendment to the children act that would give the court power to issue protection orders for girls at risk of genital mutilation.
After the second reading of the bill in the House of Commons, Sir Christopher yelled “object”.
What will that mean for the bill?
Private members’ bills only require one MP to object for it to be put at the bottom of the order paper and, effectively, delay it indefinitely.
The female genital mutilation (FGM) amendment was introduced to Parliament by Lord Berkeley of Knighton, who said he received many messages of support about the bill leading up to the second reading in the House of Commons.
But his hopes were dashed following Sir Christopher’s vote.
Lord Berkeley said the legislation now requires the Government to step in.
The reaction was swift
Sir Christopher was immediately called out by his fellow parliamentarians.
Unsurprisingly, he copped flak from Labor MPs including David Lammy and Dawn Butler.
He was also criticised by fellow conservatives, including Sajid David.
But perhaps the most stinging criticism was from fellow Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, who said Sir Christopher’s reasoning for blocking private members’ bills does not hold up.
Sir Christopher is well-known to reject private members’ bills to make sure all legislation is properly debated.
But Mr Goldsmith called out this practice, rhetorically asking on Twitter: “If he is acting on principle, as he wants people to believe, why does he often allow bills put forward by his friends to pass through unchallenged?”
It reminded everyone of the time he blocked an upskirting law
A 2018 bill was set to make upskirting — taking a photograph up a woman’s skirt without consent — a criminal offence.
That bill was expected to be nodded through, but it was blocked by Sir Christopher to shouts of “shame” from fellow MPs.
The move triggered a barrage of criticism from his fellow Tory MPs and others on social media.
He later said he actually supported that bill.
An FGM survivor ‘begged’ Chope not to object
Nimco Ali, the co-founder of Daughters of Eve — a charity organisation that works to protect women and girls against FGM and support those who live with it — implored Sir Christopher not to object to the bill in the lead-up to the second reading.
In a message to the MP, Ms Ali wrote: “I do hope you understand following the conviction last week … the need to give girls at risk all the protection possible.”
Sir Christopher responded by saying that because of the coverage in that particular case, the bill “should be fully debated”.
After a further back and forth, Ms Ali — a FGM survivor herself — “begged” a non-committal Sir Christopher.
Their text message exchange ended with Ms Ali calling him “an embarrassment to your party and humanity” and Sir Christopher saying “verbal abuse and insults” wouldn’t be substituted for debate in the parliamentary democracy.
What was that case they were talking about?
Last week saw a landmark case in the UK that resulted in the first conviction for female genital mutilation.
The court found a 37-year-old Ugandan woman from London guilty of subjecting her three-year-old daughter to FGM in 2017.
In the UK, FGM carries a sentence of up to 14 years in jail.
Have there been Australian cases?
The first successful prosecution of FGM was in New South Wales in 2016, when a mother and former midwife were convicted of mutilating young girls in Wollongong and Sydney, and a spiritual leader instructed the community to lie about the practice.
The mother and nurse were sentenced to 11 months’ home detention, while the cleric received a maximum 15-month full-time custodial sentence and was later granted bail pending an appeal.
But that conviction was quashed in 2018 when new evidence revealed the girls’ genitals remained intact.