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
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
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."