Raising Awareness & Promoting Eradication of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
What is Female genital mutilation (FGM)?
An procedure that involves altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
What are the complications?
Short-term complications such as:
- Severe pain
- Excessive bleeding
- Difficulty in passing urine
Long-term consequences such as:
- Sexual health
- Reproductive health
- Mental health
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What does the law say?
This procedure is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights, the health and the integrity of girls and women.
The practice of FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985.
Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2003 came into force, prevent girls travelling from the UK and undergoing FGM abroad as the majority of female children are taken abroad to be cut.
In October 2015 it was made a mandatory reporting duty for regulated health, social care & teaching professionals in England and Wales to report known cases of FGM in under 18s to the police.
2019 saw the first successful prosecution of a FGM perpetrator, however despite sending a strong message, they are likely to remain few and far between ac
While laws are in place to stop FGM, legislation is only part of the solution. Education, engaging families, bringing communities together and training are also paths towards eradication.
How widespread is the issue?
Although primarily concentrated in Africa and the Middle East, it is also practiced in Asia and Latin America. Its prevalence is predominantly encountered amongst immigrant populations living in Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
It is estimated that about 100-200 million women survivors are living with the consequences of FGM globally. That is a truly frightening number and to put it into perspective, roughly 40 million humans live with HIV at present.
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively and disproportionately affected girls and women, disrupting the global effort against FGM. In response to this disruption, the United Nations, through its UNFPA-UNICEF joint programme, has been adapting interventions that ensure the integration of female genital mutilation in humanitarian and post-crisis response.
What about the United Kingdom and Greater London?
An estimated 170,000 women and girls are living with FGM in the UK today, with 65,000 girls under the age of 13 are at risk.
What about the Cities of London and Westminster?
In 2014, it was estimated that over 770 school girls were at risk of FGM within the constituency, with no new figures available. The Shared Services FGM Project was launched as a response across Westminster and the Tri-Borough area.
10 Project Takeaways:
1. St Mary’s and Queen Charlotte’s Hospital Maternity Clinics: - A joint approach to identifying future victims of FGM.
2. A clinic for girls with a holistic approach that meets the standards of a CP medical officer, offering practical and emotional help.
3. A Tri-Borough FGM Lead Safeguarding and Community Worker who leads the clinics and offers support and advice to front-line Social Workers.
4. Designated Child Protection Advisors (CPA – a Social Worker specialising in Child Protection and chairs meetings about children at risk of harm) for harmful cultural practices.
5. Harmful Cultural Practices Pilot in partnership with MOPAC – a capacity building project that provides enhanced training for practitioners and on site “educator advocates” from the voluntary sector that provide advice on all forms of harmful cultural practices.
6. Community engagement events to inform local communities about the health and legal consequences of FGM.
7. FGM as a core component of all safeguarding training.
8. LSCB community worker who is building links with Mosques, Madrassas to build their capacity to recognise and respond to all safeguarding issues.
9. Raising awareness in schools with staff and young people.
10. Summer campaign to raise awareness of the increased risks to girls over the school holidays in the community and professional networks.
What can we change to eradicate FGM for good?
Progress is too slow. Chiefly due to:
- A general lack of awareness
- At risk children hiding in plain sight.
- Majority of cases are now occurring in under-fives.
- No shift in focus towards case-finding.
- Not enough widespread education.
- Frontline professionals who are best placed to identify and report do not think about it or are too embarrassed or intimidated to ask the right questions
- (Teachers, doctors, nurses, nursery workers, social workers, community leaders and others)
- Serious shortage of specialist paediatricians able to examine victims and collect forensic evidence.
- Lack of funding and government commitment.
- Domestic and international budgets slashed.
- "Softer" FGM services have been savaged or cut completely.
- We are complacent by nature.
- Females are still viewed as a minority around the world.
- Making men part of the conversation.
Food for thought
Why is the culture so slow to change around FGM? Perhaps for the same reason why the global culture around women is so slow to change. 700 million young girls are still forced into marriage worldwide - that is a ridiculously high number and equates to roughly 10% of humanity.
One has to ponder on the fact that were this a male related issue, would general awareness surrounding FGM be such a huge obstacle? Whatever the answer, the moral truth remains that millions of girls and women simply cannot wait that long, nor should they have to.
To do that we need everyone's help, and that includes you. We will continue to shine a light on this issue, use your voice and help us #EndFGM.