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MEWSo, defending and protecting women from violence
at home and in the wider community

August 2021

Campaign News

Almost There ...

MEWSo has succeeded in getting the Government to take a ban on hymen 'repair' surgery as seriously as virginity tests.

A cross-party coalition of MPs is backing two extra clauses in the Health and Social Care Bill that ban virginity testing and hymen repair surgery (or hymenoplasty). It's the first time hymen repair has been included in draft legislation, meaning anyone carrying out such a procedure would be breaking the law.

Halaleh Taheri, Founder and Executive Director of MEWSo, said: "As the first charity to start the campaign against hymen repair, we are delighted.

 ... But We Need To Keep Up The Pressure

She said: "Most of the discussion up to now has been about virginity tests and we've been fighting for that to be banned for two years. But, we've been fighting for a ban on hymen repair for much longer. And, now that others have joined the fight our voices together have made the difference.

"However, despite the new clauses there is still a lot of resistance, so we need to keep up the pressure, keep campaigning and keep demanding a change in the law," she added. 

The cross-party coalition is led by Richard Holden MP who attended MEWSo's conference on virginity tests back in April. He heard from doctors who have been approached to do tests and hymen repairs and from clients at the mercy of the virginity industry. 
After tabling the two amendments, he tweeted: "New clauses tabled to ban so called Virginity Testing & Hymenoplasty! Thanks so much to all at @MewsOrg @KNFMHBV @IKWRO @NayWiseman @DrProudman, for your expertise."

If both amendments make it into law, it would mean the entire virginity industry would be put out of business. But, Halaleh warned: "Nothing is settle yet!"

... Tough Fight Ahead

"There are still one or two phrases we want ironed out in the new clauses, and as I said, there is a lot of push-back against banning hymen repair surgery. But, just having the amendments in the Bill at all is really good news," she said.

The Damage Done Is Real

In the same week, MEWSo had a client featured on Good Morning Britain talking about the hurt and damage virginity testing did to her when she was in the process of getting married.

Going by the name of Sara, she said: "At the time I was thinking to kill myself because I was in a bad situation.

"...I know myself I'm still a virgin and even my [future] husband, he knows ... but my husband's family, they have to know I'm a virgin."

Halaleh said: "We have worked so hard to publicise the kind of damage these tests do to women and girls, and to get these practices banned for good, and now we are almost there. 

"The Government still needs to commit to educating communities and young people to make sure these tests and surgeries are not driven 'underground'. But, the Government is beginning to take notice, and we should be proud of what we have managed to achieve so far."

Joining The Coalition

Following our recent campaign successes while continuing to protect women at a grassroots level, MEWSo has been formally accepted as a member of the coalition to End Violence Against Women.

Halaleh, said: "We are delighted to be a member of EVAW. Campaigning to ban virginity tests and hymen repair surgery is all part of the same fight - to stop violence against women."

MEWSo joins over 80 other organisations in the campaign, and welcomed the Government's new long-awaited strategy on prevention.
The strategy had been put firmly in the spotlight after the murders of Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman and others, and the outpouring of anger and distress that followed, which sparked a national debate about women's safety.

The coalition's next step is to push the Government to be more ambitious with its strategy, in both scope and funding, and make sure they follow through with their promises. Click to find more about EVAW.

Podcast Adventure

MEWSo is venturing into the world of podcasts to continue to campaign against virginity tests and hymen repair surgery. Halaleh was recently interviewed by FiLiA (which means daughter), a women-led volunteer organisation that is part of the Women's Liberation Movement promoting women's human rights. Due to be broadcast soon, you can look out for a link to the podcast on our social media channels and in next month's newsletter.
 

Service News and Updates

Supporting Women Trapped in Polygamous Relationships

MEWSo's seminar explaining polygamy, the dangers it holds for women trapped in such relationships, and how we can help, was attended by up to 20 organisations keen to learn more.

The meeting was a chance to demonstrate the extent and seriousness of the issue - it's estimated there are 20,000 women in polygamous marriages in the UK and numbers are growing - and to let professionals know there is help available for their clients. 

Following MEWSo's presentation, our project partner, Dr Elena Vacchelli, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Greenwich, gave a quick demonstration of how the project works. It uses various validated techniques (see image below) that enable women to, firstly, recognise the situation they are in, acknowledge the hurt and damage done to them, and then empower them to do what they feel is best for themselves and their children.

If you want to know more about the project, need to refer a client, or want to join the MEWSo campaign, please email: office@mewso.org
 

New Funding for Domestic Abuse & Welfare Advice

MEWSo has been awarded new funding from the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), the Rosa Foundation and Imkaan to bolster our advice services on domestic abuse and welfare. The funding will allow us to help more women trapped in difficult circumstances. If you know of, or wish to refer, any woman who could use our help, please call: 07421 145 528 or email: Saher.Babiker@mewso.org.
 

Classes Now In Person

Yes! We are back - tentatively!
All our classes using Zoom have been suspended for the summer and instead we are holding some workshops in person.

Every precaution is being taken to keep people as safe as possible.

We will continue to wear masks, to socially distance, and use antiseptic gel and wash our hands regularly. And, we trust people will not attend if they are feeling unwell.

initially, this means that our art, sewing and singing classes will take place on Thursdays at Derry House in Church Street, Westminster.
Some classes, such as yoga and exercise classes, are still being risk-assessed, while others, such as our English class and our IT class, are suspended for the summer holidays but will be back in September.

If you need up-to-the-minute information about changes to our classes and workshops, or if you want to come along or wish to refer clients, please call: 07579 801 366 or email: office@mewso.org.  
Written and compiled by Audrey Thompson, Communications Coordinator
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Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation · Durham Road Resource Centre · 86 Durham Road · London, London N7 7DT · United Kingdom

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