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DEFINITION
 
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines female genital mutilation as: all procedures (not operations) which involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons" (WHO, 1996)

 

According to "Female Genital Mutilation- the Facts"- an information booklet published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office there are 4 known types of FGM.
These are the 4 procedures:
1. Cliterodectomy- partial or total removal of the clitoris (A small, sensitive and erectlie part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuces (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris)
2. Excision - partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are "the lips" that surround the vagina).
3. Infibulation - narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
4. Other - all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, E.G. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
NO HEALTH BENEFITS, ONLY HARM!
 
 All these forms of FGM have been found in the UK.

 

FGM is sometimes known as 'female genital cutting' or female circumcision. Communities tend to use local names for referring to this practice, including 'Sunna'.

 

FGM is considered a grave violation of the rights of girls and women.

 

FGM is usually carried out by the older women in a practicing community, for whom it way of gaining prestige and can be a lucrative source of income in some communities. The arrangements for the procedure usually include the child being held down on the floor by several women and the procedure carried out without medical expertise, attention to hygiene and anaesthesia. The instruments used include un-sterilised household knives, razor blades, broken glass and sharpened stones. In addition the child is subjected to the procedure unexpectedly.

For further information please read this leaflet:

http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pdf/travel-living-abroad/when-things-go-wrong/fgm-leaflet-100310

 

WHY DOES FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION HAPPEN

As stated by the Safeguarding children at risk of abuse through female genital mutilation guidelines, Parents who support the practice of FGM say that they are acting in the child's best interests. The reasons they give include that it:

 

  • Brings status and respect to the girl
  • Preserves a girls virginity/chastity
  • Is part of being a woman
  • Is a rite of passage
  • Gives a girl social acceptance especially for marriage
  • Upholds the family honour
  • Gives the girl and her family a sense of belonging to the community
  • Fulfils a religious requirement mistakenly believed to exist
  • Perpetuates a custom/tradition
  • Helps girls and women to be clean and hygienic
  • Is cosmetically desirable, and
  • Is mistakenly believed to make childbirth safer for the infant

 

Female Genital Mutilation is not a religious requirement or obligation. FGM has no link with Islam and is neither a requirement nor a Sunna in Islam. Globally most Muslims do not practise FGM. FGM is not condoned by Christian teachings or the bible

 

Whilst FGM is often seen as an act of love, rather than cruelty, it causes significant harm, constitutes physical and emotional abuse and can cause death. Female Genital Mutilation is considered to be child abuse in the United Kingdom and is a violation of the child's right to life, their bodily integrity as well as their right to health.

 

CHALLENGES

One of the main challenges when dealing with Female Genital Mutilation is to remember that "Multicultural sensitivity is no excuse for moral blindness" Home Office Minister Mike O'Brien

Professionals need to ask appropriate, safe questions if they suspect a child is at risk of FGM. It needs to be accepted and understood the FGM is happening in the UK and it is a child protection matter. The links between Female Genital Mutilation and Forced Marriage should be in the forefront of professionals' minds'.

 

LEGAL OVERVIEW IN THE UK

The Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2003:

 

  • Makes it illegal to practice FGM in the UK
  • Makes it illegal to take girls who are British nationals or permanent residents of the UK abroad for FGM whether or not it is lawful in that country
  • Makes it illegal to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad
  • Has a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and/or a fine.

To learn more about Female Genital Mutilation and legislation please visit:

 http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/when-things-go-wrong/fgm/  and

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/31/contents

 

WHO IS AFFEECTED

The World Health Organisation estimates that between 130-140 million girls and women have experienced female genital mutilation and up to two million girls per year undergo some form of the procedure each year.

The age at which girls are subjected to Female Genital Mutilation varies greatly, from shortly after birth to any time up to adulthood. The average age is 10 to 12 years.

To find out more about Safeguarding children at risk of abuse through female genital mutilation, including warning signs to look out for, please click here 

Where to go for further help or information:

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

020 7008 1500

www.fco.gov.uk/fgm

 

Metropolitan Police

Child Abuse Investigation

Command/ Project Azure

020 7167 2888

 

Child Protection Helpline

0808 800 5000 (advice for adults worried about a child

 

Foundation for Women's Health Research and Developments (FORWARD)

http://www.forwarduk.org.uk/

020 89604000

 

National Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)

www.nspcc.org.uk

0808 800 5000