Schools on FGM alert after a spike in cases

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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My God this is depressing. Parents who do this should have their children taken off them they have ...

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Schools are being put on alert after 1,930 cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) have been recorded in just three months.

The Christmas holiday period is a time when young girls can be flown abroad to undergo FGM and the National FGM Centre is asking school staff to look out for the danger signs of those at risk.

Official NHS statistics released last week show that at least 830 of the 1,930 cases – which were recorded between July and September 2019 – took place abroad (with the location not clear in a further 540 cases).

The total of 1,930 is a rise of 20 per cent from the same period last year, and of the 1,930, 940 were newly recorded cases. Furthermore, FGM is under-reported and so the real figures are likely to be much higher.

FGM is also known as female circumcision or cutting, and by other terms such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan. It is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15, most commonly before puberty starts.

The statistics show that more than half (52 per cent) of the most recent cases were recorded during midwifery appointments.

The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act in 1985 made FGM a specific criminal offence in the UK. In 2003, the Female Genital Mutilation Act made it illegal to take a girl abroad for FGM.

And since 2015, there has been a specific legal duty on teaching staff to report to the police cases where they discover that an act of FGM appears to have been carried out.

As Christmas approaches, the National FGM Centre – a partnership between Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association – is urging teachers and school staff to be on the look-out for warning signs that a child may be at-risk.

These include the child beginning to tell her friends about FGM, confiding that she is going to have a “special procedure” or “become a woman” or talking about a long holiday in a country where the practice is prevalent.

Parents may also talk about taking their child out of the country for a prolonged period of time or mention they are going to a country with a high prevalence of FGM, especially during holiday periods.

Signs that may point to a child having undergone FGM include difficulty in walking or sitting down, taking a long time in the toilet, or a becoming withdrawn.

Head of the National FGM Centre, Leethen Bartholomew, said: “We know from experience that many cases of FGM occur in school holidays, especially during summer and Christmas. It is important that teachers and other professionals are trained in spotting the signs of FGM and how to record and report it, so that girls at risk can be protected and safeguarded.

“The NHS statistics show there’s still a lot to be done to end FGM. We need to continue working with girls and their families, raising awareness in schools and communities, and training professionals like teachers and social workers to spot girls at risk of FGM and know how to report it.”

Anita Lower, the Local Government Association’s FGM lead and chair of the Advisory Board at the National FGM Centre, added: “There have now been 22,500 new cases of FGM identified in just over four years, which highlights the size of the challenge facing all agencies seeking an end to this form of abuse, which is destroying the lives of children and young people in communities across the country.

“Social workers have become better at identifying the signs of FGM and faith and belief-related abuse, but the true incidence rate is likely to be higher as these crimes are under-reported.

“The work of the National FGM Centre is vital to help end FGM and prevent this abuse from happening in the first place, as well as offering support to victims and those at risk. To support this goal, the next government needs to ensure councils have the funding to address the huge demand for help from children and their families and maximise the effectiveness of prevention and intervention work.”

My God this is depressing. Parents who do this should have their children taken off them they have no right to call themselves 'parents' by allowing this.
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