Did you know that since the law was changed in 1985 making the practice and/or involvement in Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) illegal in the UK, there have been no prosecutions of perpetrators that have forced children to go through the ordeal?
On 04/11/2013 a report on Tackling FGM in the UK: Intercollegiate recommendations for identifying, recording and reporting was launched at the House of Commons by a unique coalition of Royal Colleges, trade unions and Equality Now. It’s purpose was to make recommendations on how to protect young girls at risk of FGM within the existing UK legal framework which has been in place since 1985.
The report makes nine recommendations for tackling FGM in the UK and considers issues such as the lack of consistent data collection about FGM in the NHS. The recommendations suggest that babies, children and young girls suspected of going to be cut or presenting with FGM should be considered as potential victims of crime and referred to support services and the police, as appropriate.
Dr David Richmond, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said: “FGM is violence against women and we must find ways to eradicate this harmful and unacceptable practice. When it is done on girls, it is a form of child abuse with many long-term consequences.”
But how are these recommendations making a difference in the fight against FGM?
One way to end FGM is to educate the population on the procedure, it’s impact on the youth and the rights that young individuals have to say no. This means putting an end to the nature of taboo on the subject and allowing victims and anyone that can associate with FGM to speak out and force change.r
This is the case of Kakenya Ntaiya from Kenya who had to make a deal with her father at the age of 12 that she would undergo FGM if he would let her go to high school. Years later, she now says “I learnt that FGM was illegal in Kenya, I did not have to trade part of my body to get an education. I had a right.”. Now Kakenya is speaking worldwide on the subject and reaching out to vulnerable girls from her tribe in Kenya and supporting them to turn their lives around through education. Here, one woman is making a difference to the lives of many but is this happening here in the UK too?
On 31/01/14 an article was published in the Evening Standard newspaper with the headline ‘Teachers are failing to raise the issue of FGM with primary pupils’. According to the charity Forward, teachers fear they will be ‘opening a can of worms’ if they approach the subject in schools especially given the age of the pupils. However, evidence suggests that girls getting ’cut’ are of an average age of five to eight years-the age where they are at primary school. Therefore, this issue needs to be addressed at a young age, not just at secondary school where in many instances, it could already be too late. It is important for teachers and healthcare professionals alike to be able to talk about the subject openly and be able to spot the signs of FGM. Often, they are the ones that young girls may trust the most outside of their families and are likely to open up to. By educating the population worldwide, especially communities who practice FGM and frontline professionals in countries with girls at high risk, together we can help to stop FGM being practiced, give women the rights they deserve and the ability to stand up for their futures.
Thursday 6th February 2014 is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. On this day, take a moment to think about the devastating impact FGM can have on young, innocent girls and the strain it can put on families. Help make a difference, support change, put an end to FGM.
By Raveena Nagaria
References:http://www.rcog.org.uk/news/intercollegiate-group-draws-ground-breaking-recommendations-tackling-female-genital-mutilation http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/04/uk-mutilation-girls-report http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/05/female-genital-mutilation-fgm-child-abuse-british-girls http://www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Publications/FGM_Summary_11_July.pdf