6th Feb 2016 – International Zero Tolerance of FGM

endfgm-logo-englishresize-jpg_ArticleLandscapeCropAs you may know, on ‘let’s talk!’ we raise awareness of the campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and tomorrow marks another important stage in the process to end FGM worldwide. The theme of this year’s International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM theme is around aiming to achieve global goals of eliminating FGM by 2030.

Today, Avon & Somerset Constabulary, made a statement, confirming their commitment to the campaign and updated us on the steps taken locally.

Police & Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens is quoted as saying:

“Tackling domestic and sexual abuse, which includes FGM, is a priority for me and I welcome the continued collective effort being made to focus on the issue and help protect the women and girls at risk of this most intrusive and damaging practice.

“Even before the reporting of FGM became mandatory, a lot of work has taken place to train health care professionals and teachers in recognising the signs of this horrific crime. I welcome both the efforts to raise awareness of this form of child abuse and the changes in legislation to safeguard those known and at risk of FGM.

“I am very clear that FGM is child abuse and must be treated as such. We must never lose sight that FGM is a violation of human rights that has lifelong health and emotional consequences. Working together we must eradicate this disgraceful crime for good.”

It was good to read that the following action has already been taken within the force:

  • The training of up to 80 Somerset GPs on FGM awareness and obligations surrounding mandatory reporting.
  • Having trained professionals working in the areas of safeguarding and mental health in Somerset
  • Being part of a focus group advising staff from the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office re what is working well and not so well in tackling FGM
  • Supported day-long multi-agency enhanced training commissioned by the Bristol Safeguarding Children’s Board (BSCB)
  • Help to train officers and detectives with the States of Jersey Police on how they can use their existing legislation to help children at risk of FGM
  • Attendamce at an event organised by Bristol University’s Feminist Society, in conjunction with the Integrate Bristol charity, to increase FGM awareness, which was attended by an audience including trainee teachers, doctors and lawyers

We will obviously be keeping an eye on progress and hope that, even before 2030, this barbaric procedure is banned worldwide.

Eradicating FGM – some good news

fgm-campaign-1

Here at The Terrace we have always supported the worldwide campaign to eradicate the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM, or female circumcision, involves the removal of the clitoris and the stitching shut of a girl’s genitals, and is done for non-medical reasons. The practise is illegal in the United Kingdom, but many young girls are taken abroad to countries where it has not yet been banned.

The procedure is traditionally carried out by a woman, in a grossly abusive way – rarely with anaesthetic, cut by razor blades, knives or scissors for example – and often with a young girl, barely into puberty or younger, physically restrained. They can then be subject to ongoing health problems, such as tetanus, gangrene, HIV, hepatitis B and C and it can make childbirth incredibly difficult.

We have frequently written about FGM here on let’s talk!, updating readers with news and highlighting work being done to raise awareness and ensure girls here are safeguarded, so we were pleased to hear that the president of Gambia has banned the practise of FGM (although it has not yet been reported when the necessary legislation will be drafted to enforce the decision). Gambia was one of the 29 countries on the continent of Africa to still allow FGM.

It is reported that almost 80 per cent of women and girls have undergone FGM in Gambia, with the majority of claiming they were forced to undergo the procedure owing to an interpretation of Islam that required it. President Yahya Jammeh’s announcement is particularly iportant as he has now claimed Islam, which is the majority religion in Gambia, does not insist that a girl be cut.

There is still a lot of concern about the implementation, however. In rural areas of Gambia the overwhelming majority of women are subjected to FGM and enforcement would be difficult, but a surge in publicity and exposure of the practise has seemingly forced the president’s hand.

The Sculpted – a brave & shocking film about FGM…

CaptureAs regular readers of this blog might remember, we at The Terrace have always supported the campaign against the practice of Female Genial Mutilation (FGM). Figures recently released suggest the number of girls coming forward for support has increased significantly, but the procedure, also called ‘cutting’ or female circumcision, continues. It has been illegal in Britain for many years, but girls and young women are still abused in this way, often take abroad to have their external genitals partially or wholly removed. This results in painful sex and exceptionally difficult, and dangerous, labour and childbirth.

So when we saw this short film, made by student film-makers Ellie Jones and Miholyn Soon, from Westminster University we wanted to share it to highlight the cruelty of the practice. It  ‘deals with the intimate thoughts of a young girl about to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM). It follows the internal monologue of a girl who never actually speaks, and uses creative imagery to illustrate the cruelty of the cut’.

It is available to view via The Guardian website HERE

It has been screened at Campus MovieFest in Hollywood and is a valuable addition to the campaign for a worldwide ban within a generation. Do take a look  – it just 4 minutes long and deeply moving…

NHS releases newly collected FGM figures – NSPCC ‘shocked’

fgmThe NSPCC is our nominated charity for 2014 and we have long sought to raise awareness of the horrors of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on this blog. So like the NSPCC we were shocked to hear the first NHS figures collected on the incidence of this barbaric practice, released yesterday.

John Cameron from the NSPCC said: “These are shocking figures and prove that FGM is very much a live public health issue. This NHS data shows just how vital it is that health professionals are trained to spot the signs of FGM so we can ensure that women and girls who are subjected to this brutal practice get the post-traumatic support they deserve.”

467 new cases of girls and women needing treatment after female genital mutilation in England were identified last month. Another 1,279 current cases were receiving treatment according to Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) figures.

We have always found it difficult to believe that although FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1985, no one has yet been convicted. More than half of the reported cases are in London, but all regions in England have seen cases reported.

The BBC reported Kingsley Manning, the chairman of the HSCIC, as saying: “Having accurate data about this crime is an important step in helping prevent its occurrence in the future.”

We know that up to 170,000 women and girls living in the UK may have undergone this procedure, and although earlier this year we reported that Prime Minister David Cameron had committed to ensuring  that any parents who allowed their daughters to go through the procedure would face prosecution, we have yet to hear of any cases coming to court.

To find out more about FGM and how to join the campaign against it, see the World Health Organisation site here

 

FGM summit: British PM calls for end ‘in this generation’

_76432219_female_mutilation_20142207_464As you may know, here at the Terrace we are keen to highlight the issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and campaign for the banning of the practice, to save so many girls and young women from lifelong pain and enduring health issues.

So we were pleased to hear that Prime Minister David Cameron, talking at a global summit hosted by the UK and by UNICEF, called for FGM (and childhood marriage) to be ended within a generation. Now we need to see real action.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, said:

“The fact that 30 million girls are at risk of being cut in the coming years clearly means that we have a big challenge on our hands….’ and  Priscilla Karim, who was forced to undergo FGM in Sierra Leone at the age of just 9, told the BBC of her ordeal:

“I felt the worst pain of my life and a heavy object sitting on my chest and I just passed out…..It’s like a taboo, they don’t tell you about it. You cannot tell anybody.”

The BBC News website reporting on the summit offers some vital facts and highlights the many issues facing young women at risk in the coming years if FGM continues. This is despite growing global calls for the eradication of the procedure and the news that, in Britain at least,  failure to report FGM (FGM  has been illegal here for a number of years) will in itself become a criminal offence. Do take a look and join us in calling for this child abuse (for that is what it is) to stop.

 

 

Female Genital Mutilation – a cross party report states it remains an ‘ongoing national scandal’

female-genital-mutilation-1A report on female genital mutilation has been published by MPs today (3rd July), and it makes uncomfortable reading for those of us committed to the campaign to end the practice.

We have written on FGM twice before on this blog here and here and are saddened to hear that the report of the cross-party Commons home affairs committee states clearly that it continues to be an ‘ongoing national scandal’.

The committee heard from victims, health and social workers, police and lawyers. Whilst not going so far as to endorse mandatory gynaecological checks it did say that a case could be made for the adoption of the French model – regular checks for at-risk young women and children.

It is shocking that around 24,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of female genital mutilation in the UK. Every one of them is let down by our society if we fail to deal with this matter properly.
Keith Vaz, the Labour MP chairing the committee said:

“Successive governments, politicians, the police, health, education and social care sectors should all share responsibility for the failure in recent years to respond adequately to the growing prevalence of FGM in the UK.”

The BBC, reporting on the issue on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning, spoke to Dr Comfort Momoh, a public health specialist at St Thomas’s Hospital, in London, who said there was a “lack of training” and a “lack of awareness” around the issue among health professionals.

She said: “If our so-called professionals don’t have the knowledge, if our so-called professionals don’t know how to identify groups who might be at risk, how do we expect the community to report cases to us?”
Although the Department for Education has taken steps to draw this matter to the attention of all schools, the committee feels they can still do more and there must surely be a case for training for teachers over and above standard safeguarding procedures.

The Guardian newspaper reports today that campaigners, whilst welcoming the report, are frustrated that it has not gone further, making a failure to report FGM a crime to ensure any professionals, currently reluctant to become involved in cases of FGM, take steps to protect any girl they feel may be vulnerable. The report only recommends the criminalisation of a failure to report ‘if reporting of the practice does not increase in the next 12 months’. They have also called for more detailed guidelines for professionals and funding for grass roots action.

Clearly there is a lot of support for action, but there should surely be no further delay in implementing these changes?

 

FGM follow up – DPP calls for mandatory reporting of cases.

DPP Alison Saunders

DPP Alison Saunders

Our last post was a call for greater awareness of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and our horror at the way the practise of cutting young girls can continue in communities in Britain seemingly without fear of prosecution.

To write on the subject last week was good timing. Over the weekend reports and comment in the national press indicated that the challenge of eradicating FGM is gaining support and prosecutions will become more common. However, it is still far from easy to see how this will come about.

The director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has criticised medical staff for the poor number of referrals. Only 11 cases of female genital mutilation have been referred for prosecution by the police to the Crown Prosecution Service in the last three years, even though at least 144 complaints were made to police. The first prosecution for female genital mutilation was announced two weeks ago. It is 29 years after it became illegal in England and Wales.

The DPP was appearing before the House of Commons home affairs select committee, the Chairman of which, Keith Vaz said they had taken evidence that as many as 66,000 women in England and Wales had been subjected to FGM. “Eleven referrals sounds a very small figure,” he said.

The DPP claims it is lack of evidence that prevents prosecutions proceeding, rather than loopholes in the legislation. That is why she wants reporting by health staff to become compulsory, but she would not go so far as to say compulsory examination of girls, such as that required in France, should become part of British law.

We appreciate that this is a legal issue that is fraught with difficulties, but it is too important to be lost in a mire of discussion. Even the announcement of a prosecution has met with concern, as the case is not straightforward, involving as it does a repair rather than the actual act of FGM.

What do you think? Are we guilty of talking too much and doing too little? How should medical staff approach this? Are you in favour of compulsory examination of girls? After all it has almost eradicated FGM in France.

We would love to know your views. This is a subject we will come back to and a campaign we are committed to supporting.