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Let's talk about FGM

22 July 2014

A new package of compulsory training for teachers, doctors and social workers is to be unveiled by Nick Clegg later this week to tackle the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM). Around 66,000 girls are estimated to have undergone FGM since 2003, but in the last eleven years, only one person has been prosecuted under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 and all charges were eventually dropped. The legislation is clearly something of a damp squib. Recently however, FGM has been hitting the headlines and generating discussion across many sectors and thankfully the Government has taken a different (and better) approach to tackle the issue by getting people to talk about the practice.

FGM can give rise to a number of serious consequences including severe bleeding, infections, infertility and an increased risk of new-born deaths. Once performed, the damage is done, so rather than focusing on prosecuting after the procedure has occurred, the focus has shifted to training teachers, doctors and social workers to spot the signs before it happens, hopefully saving more girls from this form of horrific child abuse. Teachers will learn that such procedures are more likely to occur during the summer holidays and will be taught to take particular notice of girls talking about trips to countries where the practice is regrettably common, or old relatives visiting for special ceremonies etc. The training also makes clear that teachers are not to investigate allegations, but must inform social services and the police of their concerns.

Finally the Government have got the focus right; that discussion, education and prevention is key to hopefully making FGM obsolete, in this country at the very least.

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