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Hospitals begin FGM initiative

14 February 2014

by a staff reporter


Giving the message: a speaker at World Vision's gender and anti-FGM centre, in Somalia

Giving the message: a speaker at World Vision's gender and anti-FGM centre, in Somalia

NHS hospitals will have to log and report all patients who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), as part of a government initiative to tackle the practice.

The initiative was launched to mark the UN International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, on Wednesday of last week. All hospitals will now have to record whether a patient has had FGM, and whether there is a family history of the procedure. The information will then be passed on to the Department of Health.

The Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison, said: "In order to combat it, and ensure we can care properly for the girls and women who have undergone mutilation, we need to build a more accurate nationwide picture of the challenge. This is the first step towards doing that."

Obi Amadi, from the Unite union, said in response: "This is a complex area, with layers of cultural sensitivities which pose challenges to health professionals, including health visitors and school nurses." School nurses, she said, had to be at the forefront of any serious anti-FGM campaign; and she warned that 3000-6000 more nurses would be needed. There are 1169 full-time qualified school nurses in England, working in 4000 secondary schools.

Statistics suggest that about 66,000 women in England and Wales have undergone FGM, and that 23,000 girls below the age of 15 are at risk. The Government has set aside £100,000 to help charities that are involved in raising awareness of the practice.

In the UK there have been no prosecutions for FGM, although several cases are now being investigated by the police. The Christian charity World Vision has produced a report comparing the UK's lack of progress towards eradicating the practice with progress in countries such as Niger and Ethiopia.

It said that, while the UK government had "struggled to get to grips", Ethiopia had reduced the prevalence of FGM by 16 per cent, and it had more than halved in Niger, where the government enlisted the support of religious and community leaders to challenge the cultural sensitivities that surround the practice.

The report concluded: "Lessons from Ethiopia and Niger show the importance of creating space for dialogue and discussion within the communities in which the social norms are reproduced."



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