According to a new report – Tackling Female Genital Mutilation in the UK – FGM should receive the same treatment as other forms of child abuse and must be reported to the police.
Joint author of the report and policy adviser for the Royal College of Midwives, Janet Fyle, has said that just as it would be utterly inconceivable for a health worker to fail to report evidence of child abuse to the police, this same attitude should also be adopted in relation to reporting evidence of FGM. She commented:
“If we are applying child protection laws, we cannot pick and choose which crimes against children we pursue,”.
FGM is most commonly carried out in the Middle East and Africa by non-Muslims and Muslims. While exact figures are difficult to pinpoint, it is thought that in countries such as Somalia and Egypt up to 90% of women have gone through some form of FGM. Although this act has been illegal in the UK since 1985, migrants from countries where FGM is commonplace have continued to carry out the practice here, or have taken girls to their home countries for it to be performed before returning to the UK.
Since 2003 Brits can face prosecution for acts of FGM abroad, yet despite the regular occurrence of this practice there have been no UK prosecutions to date.
The report, which was launched at the House of Commons on Monday, contained shocking figures suggesting that more than 66,000 women throughout England and Wales had suffered FGM and that an estimated 24,000 girls below the age of 15 are currently at risk.
The authors of the report are hoping that their findings will lead to implementation of the following recommendations:
- FGM to be treated as child abuse, with health workers who detect evidence of this practice treating it as a crime and reporting it as an offence to the police.
- Health workers to identify children at high risk of FGM, such as those born to women who have undergone FGM themselves.
- A government funded awareness strategy, similar to the HIV campaigns.
- Health workers to be held accountable for success or failure in monitoring FGM.
If you feel you might be at risk of FGM or if you suspect somebody else is at risk or has been subjected to FGM, please get in touch with your local social services department and your local police child protection unit. If you have suffered FGM, you may benefit from some emotional support, which a counsellor can provide. To contact a counsellor in your local area, visit our homepage and use our search tool to find a professional near you.