Yesterday we (the Government) launched new guidelines to help front line professionals – nurses, doctors, teachers and social workers – know how to recognise and prevent Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The guidelines are being sent to chairs of Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards, Directors of Children’s Services and Regional Directors of Public Health, will help professionals:
* identify and prevent further incidents;
* ensure that victims and potential victims receive the response and support they need; and
* provide a step-by-step practical guide to sensitively handling cases of FGM
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.
This is part of my Home Office domestic violence portfolio. FGM is a most brutal crime and has the most terrible and long lasting effects on women and girls. One of the challenges we face in putting an end to this practice is the lack of knowledge about how to recognise the signs and what to do when you do recognise the signs.
I attended a recent round table on FGM as a pre-launch event to set out just how – local teachers, nursing staff, police officers, community leaders and survivors of FGM can work together to end such a cruel practice.
If a teacher had a pupil come into class with a black eye – that teacher would surely and rightly be concerned and ask questions. We need teachers to be equally concerned if, for example, a girl keeps taking abnormally long times when she goes to the toilet (one of the signs of FGM).
This is what 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:
“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.”