The Royal College of Midwives has warned that female genital mutilation (FGM) is a concern in the UK, following the publication of a new report by Unicef into the worldwide prevalence of the practice.
Unicef’s publication, ‘Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change’, found that there is widespread opposition to the practice in the countries where it takes place. The study looked at nearly 30 middle-east and African countries and found that, although the risks to girls is less than it was 30 years ago, there is still 30 million at risk of FGM.
Commenting on the report, Janet Fyle, professional policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, warned that it is not an issue to be ignored in the UK. She said: “This is an important report on female genital mutilation (FGM) prevalence and one that shows progress is being made in some countries. However, there is much more still to be done to end this terrible violence against girls globally.
“This is not an issue that happens just in far away countries covered in the report. It is also happening here in the UK, on our doorsteps, in our neighbourhoods. FGM is child abuse and we want midwives, health and social care professionals and other frontline staff to be vigilant, and take action if they are concerned about a young girl at risk of FGM.”
Multi-agency approach to FGM prevention
The RCM is currently working with a number of health and social care organisations and professionals, including the police, to develop multi-professional recommendations on actions to protect girls at risk of FGM.
Unicef’s report recommends opening up the practice to greater public scrutiny, and highlights the important role education can play in driving social change. “FGM/C is a violation of a girl’s rights to health, well-being and self-determination,” said Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director.
“What is clear from this report is that legislation alone is not enough. The challenge now is to let girls and women, boys and men speak out loudly and clearly and announce they want this harmful practice abandoned.”