Children everywhere have been waited impatiently for the six week stretch of the summer holidays to commence. Weeks enjoying sparse days of the British summer, relaxing and going on holiday with their families. However, for some girls across the country, the summer (or sometimes called the “cutting season”) was spent travelling abroad with family members or adults within their communities often under the pretence of visiting relatives to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM).
According to the NHS, FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. There are many serious health consequences to FGM including bleeding, infections and death.
The UK made FGM illegal in 1985 but families and communities where FGM is still extremely prevalent are still enforcing the practice. 130 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM*. The number of girls under the age of 15 at risk in the UK is difficult to identify but it is estimated at 65,000 girls according to the NHS. However, from the influx of so many different cultures and communities in the country, it’s safe to say that FGM cases are rife in the UK. Despite the statistics, there has only ever been one successful prosecution for FGM in the UK. FGM protection orders have been available since 2015 and have been used across the country in order to prevent FGM being carried out. The first ever recorded figures for FGM published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed that between April 2015 and March 2016 there were 5,702 new cases in England. Due to the convenient longevity of the summer break, girls who undergo FGM will be more likely to supposedly heal from the procedure and therefore side effects will be less likely to be recognised.
FGM is practised in countries across the world, with 80% of cases coming from Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and Mali. Other non-African countries include Yemen, Afghanistan and Turkey. Nevertheless, it is important to note that although FGM is more likely to be carried out in these countries, young girls are being taken abroad to other countries such as Dubai and the USA in order to have FGM carried out. Some families and communities sometimes fly in a “cutter” to do the procedure. Contrary to belief, this horrific practice does still happen in the UK with the person carrying out the act is unlikely to have no medical training or sterilised equipment.
FGM is not a religious obligation and is just a cultural practice. It is often used as a way of controlling women’s sexuality and also to show purity. Education will aid prevention for cases of FGM in the UK allowing professionals and agencies to identify the risk before the act has even taken place. It is extremely important to spot the signs of FGM in school girls when they come back from the summer holidays for side effects such as difficulty walking or spending longer than usual in the bathroom or toilet because of difficulty urinating. Nonetheless, it is important to understand not just the physical but the mental implications that this procedure has on young girls.
Always be vigilant and look out for the signs of FGM especially over the summer months and ‘back to school’ period. For more information or for any concerns on the subject, please call us on 0800 107 0726.
Savera UK also offer training on the subject, contact us to find out more.
*’Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in England and Wales: National and local estimates.’ Alison Macfarlane and Efua Dorkenoo. Published by City University London