It’s essential we provide psychological support for the women and girls who have gone through FGM, John Cameron says
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a highly complex form of abuse – I’m sure like me, you think it is unfathomable that any parent would subject their daughter to such a violent practice, which has life-long physical and emotional repercussions. What we can all fail to understand is that the parents who are subjecting their children to FGM think they are doing it for the right reasons – when they are actually making a mistake.
FGM is a cultural ritual in some communities in Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti and Egypt where shockingly it is believed that not to have a child 'cut' would harm their prospects of marriage and could even make them a bad mother or parent. It is also a gender inequality issue and an attempt by men to control women within the small communities in which it is practiced.
Putting victims and those at risk of FGM first
Since 1985 FGM has been illegal in the UK - but as of yet no one has been found guilty of it. Tomorrow to try and bring perpetrators to justice, the UK government will make it mandatory for health and social care professionals and teachers in England to report incidents of FGM to the police. At the NSPCC we are keen to ensure children are protected from FGM and that victims are identified, protected and supported and that offenders are brought to account. We understand the hesitancy of children speaking out and their worries and we believe adults and professionals have a key role to play in encouraging and supporting them to come forward.
We know from the professionals contacting our FGM helpline (0800 028 3550) that the issue often poses a dilemma for them, these professionals include those working in health related roles such as doctors, nurses and midwives. This is the very reason we set up the NSPCC FGM helpline, back in the summer of 2013, which offers help and advice to parents and professionals if they have a concern. FGM is a complex form of abuse – often there no other child protection concerns within the family and a professional, who suspects a child has undergone the practice, can often debate whether to report what’s happened given they think harm has already been done.
Supporting women and girls subjected to FGM
When people come across a young person or adult they are concerned about they often have many questions about what to do next and how best to support the women and girls who have been subjected to FGM. Our trained practitioners can be contacted for free, anonymously, 24 hours a day with any questions concerning FGM however big or small. Whether you want to report a case or whether you are concerned about a child who is potentially going to be subjected to FGM – we can help.
We can also talk through your concerns about what action is in the best interest of the family. More recently our helpline staff received training, supported by the Department of Health, from FGM specialist midwives and we now provide an enhanced service for NHS staff to discuss any questions or concerns they have and what action to take.
"Any parent who has allowed FGM to happen to their child needs not only to be brought to account for their action but their attitudes and beliefs need to be challenged."
John Cameron / NSPCC Head of Helplines
Since launching in 2013, we have received over 900 contacts from the public and professionals, over 300 have been so serious they have been referred onwards to children’s services and the police. One example of a call involved a doctor who called anonymously with a concern about a patient. The patient's father was preparing for his daughter to visit Somalia, but wouldn't give the doctor any details about why she was going there. The patient and family's details were then passed on to local children's services to follow up.
At the NSPCC we believe that any parent who has allowed FGM to happen to their child needs not only to be brought to account for their action but their attitudes and beliefs need to be challenged. FGM is traumatic for every victim and it is essential that we provide psychological support for the women and girls who have gone through it and that we work to best assess any further risks to children within the same family.
Who is affected
FGM can happen at any age before getting married or having a baby. Some girls are babies when FGM is carried out.