Every Summer ‘Operation limelight’ takes place at six British airports, including Manchester Airport, where police, border force agents and charities are available to those who want to report concerns about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The operation is aimed at preventing and detecting cases of FGM.
What is FGM?
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) happens most often during the summer holidays, sometimes referred to as the ‘cutting season.’ The World Health Organisation states that FGM has been documented in over 30 countries, mainly in Africa but also in the Middle East, Asia and South America. However, with increasing migration it is becoming more wide scale. FGM is a horrific form of abuse where the victim’s genitalia can be fully or partially removed. ‘Traditional cutters’ who do not have any medical training are paid to perform such procedures, often without the use of anaesthetic. This practice often occurs during the holidays, allowing more time for the victim to heal before returning to school. The age at which FGM can be carried out varies greatly from birth to marriage, or during pregnancy and causes serious mental and physical harm. This can include constant pain, infection, depression, self-harm and in some cases it can result in death.
How often does FGM happen?
The figures for FGM in the UK are startling. Leading Charity Plan International, states that a case of FGM is reported in England every 109 minutes. Additionally, FORWARD reports that over 60,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of FGM in the UK and over 137,000 women and girls are affected by FGM. Since July 2015, 79 FGM protection orders have been made to safeguard young women.
Greater Manchester was the first region in the country to take a zero tolerance approach after it was revealed that more than 500 women and children were victims of FGM in 2016. More recently, Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London) was invited to champion making London a ‘zero cutting city,’ as approximately half of all reported FGM cases are located within the London area. Yet, it is important to note that nowhere is risk free.
Why is it done?
Unfortunately, FGM is a taboo subject which can make it difficult to talk about. However, education is vital in dispelling the myths that surround the so called ‘justification’ of this practice. Socio-cultural reasons are often given for performing FGM, which include preserving virginity, fidelity after marriage and increasing a man’s sexual pleasure, yet in stark reality FGM supresses women and violates their human rights.
In addition to the above, religious grounds are sometimes given for performing FGM. For example, on the 28 April 2016, the Daily Mail reported that two Detroit Doctors and a woman were charged over the Female Genital Mutilation of two seven year old girls, claiming that it was a religious practice. Yet there are no authenticated religious texts that support FGM. In fact FGM is not mentioned in the Bible, Quran or Sunnah. The Islamic Shari’a Council, the Muslim College and the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) have all condemned the practice of FGM within the Muslim community.
FGM is recognised as a form of abuse and is illegal in England and Wales under the FGM Act 2003. Section 5B of the 2003 FGM Act, introduced the mandatory reporting duty which came into force on the 31 October 2015. The duty requires regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales to report ‘known’ cases of FGM in under 18s. This means that any known or suspected cases must be reported to the local police immediately by calling 101.
Professionals need to be aware of the high risks of FGM and be aware of signs and indicators that might need further investigations for students at your school. Ensure that your staff are trained and that students are able to talk about concerns and receive support and advice.
Where to go for help
Outside the Greater Manchester victims and their families can contact FORWARD on 02089604000 (extension 1) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Professionals can also contact AFRUKA for advice on 0161 205 2156.