Milton: FGM can cause long term psychological and physical harm
New guidelines have been published to help frontline professionals such as nurses, doctors, teachers and social workers identify and prevent Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone has announced.
The guidelines, issued by the government to chairs of Local Safeguarding Children's Boards, Directors of Children's Services and Regional Directors of Public Health, will help professionals identify women and girls at risk and set out the practical steps that can be taken to protect them. The guidelines also provide a step-by-step practical guide to sensitively handling cases of FGM.
FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The procedure has no health benefits for women and girls. They can cause severe bleeding, problems urinating, and later, potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths. It is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15 years.
An estimated 100 to 140 million women and girls worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM. In Africa an estimated two million girls are subject to FGM each year. In the UK an estimated 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at serious risk of FGM each year, and 66,000 women are living with the serious consequences of the procedure.
Speaking at a recent roundtable with local teachers, nursing staff, police officers, community leaders and survivors of FGM, Ms. Featherstone set out her vision for how central and local government, frontline staff and communities can all work together to end the cruel practice.
"I have seen firsthand the effect this abhorrent crime can have on women and girls. This government is determined to put an end to it,” Ms. Featherstone said.
The new guidelines, she said, “will help local authorities, charities and communities work together to prevent women and girls being subjected to this terrible abuse, and that those who have already suffered are given the appropriate care and support."
Hagir Ahmed, survivor of FGM and Manor Gardens Advocate said: "I had the experience at the age of five or six. When you are a child you usually don't remember things at that age but I remember. I remember being at a party and the people holding me down. My legs. My hands. My knees. And then I remember the practitioner with the knife.
"I don't remember any anaesthetic. I just remember crying, crying and pleading. I was completely shattered, emotionally and physically."
Joy Clarke, Lead Specialist Midwife at Whittington Hospital said: "When people migrate they take their customs with them and FGM is practiced in communities to keep those communities together. Because they love their children they continue to do it.
"Organisations like the Manor Gardens Advocacy Project are already doing good work to educate communities. I work with Manor Gardens to go out and run workshops with social workers and teachers in practising communities so they can recognise if a child is at risk. And I talk to parents about the physical and mental health implications and the law. In 99 per cent of cases this makes a difference but we need to revisit the families to make sure they have understood."
Health Minister Anne Milton said: "FGM is an extremely harmful practice that can cause long term psychological and physical harm, difficulty in giving birth and even infertility.
"These guidelines will help make sure that healthcare professionals are aware of the signs, symptoms and cultural issues that put women and girls at risk from this unacceptable practice. It will also help them to provide the most appropriate and sensitive care."
The guidelines have been developed across government departments in partnership with the Royal Colleges, FGM experts, charitable organisations and the Association of Chief Police Officers.