A Conservative MP in the UK has been branded "appalling" and an "embarrassment to [his] party and humanity" for blocking a bill that sought to prevent female genital mutilation (FGM) among children.
On Friday, Sir Christopher Chope, 71, shouted "object!" in Parliament to proposals that would have allowed courts to issue protection orders if a child is deemed at risk of FGM. HuffPost reports that politicians in the chamber audibly groaned at the sound of Chope's objection.
Under the rules of parliamentary procedure, it only takes one MP to register their disapproval to block the passage of a bill. That MP would be Chope, a die-hard Brexiteer who has made a name for himself by repeatedly stymying legislation around women and girls' rights.
In 2018, he almost derailed the passage of a law against upskirting when he blocked it in Parliament. That same year, he blocked a motion that proposed to celebrate the centenary of women's suffrage in the UK by holding a Women MPs of the World conference in Parliament.
Chope claims that he rejects all such Private Member's Bills (legislative proposals introduced by an MP and not as part of the government's planned legislation) on principle.
In 2014, he also voted against the Equal Pay (Transparency) Bill that called on employers with more than 250 staff members to reveal their gender pay gap. Chope also objected to a 2013 bill that sought to pardon Alan Turing, the World War II codebreaker who was prosecuted for homosexuality.
Anti-FGM campaigner and Daughters of Eve co-founder Nimco Ali said that she begged Chope on Thursday not to block the bill. "The idea that I a Survivor [sic] have to beg a member of Parliament to help protect girls is painful," Ali tweeted. "But I did it and to get the replies I did has broken my heart."
She uploaded screenshots from a text conversation with Chope, in which the Tory MP told her that the FGM bill needed to be "fully debated" in Parliament.
"Please just be honest, you don't care about the rights of girls who will be subjected to the most horrific form of abuse," Ali texted back. "You are an embarrassment to your party and to humanity."
Chope has also been criticized by MPs from his own party. "As anticipated, Chope objected to the FGM Bill. Just appalling," Tory MP Zac Goldsmith said on Twitter.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: "Very disappointed by this. FGM is child abuse. I am determined to stamp out this despicable and medieval practice. We will do all we can protect girls at risk."
FGM (also known as "cutting") is usually carried out on infant girls and adolescents in the UK up to the age of 15, according to the National Health Service. As part of the procedure, "the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but where there's no medical reason for this to be done." An estimated 137,000 women and girls in the UK have undergone FGM, with almost 4,500 new cases recorded in 2018.