Doctors and nurses in Britain will be required to register
cases of female
genital mutilation (FGM) as part of efforts to combat the practice, the government
From April it will be mandatory for all National Health
Service (NHS) hospitals to log cases of FGM in a central database to help
provide an idea of the scale of the problem in the UK. The first official
figures are due to be released in the autumn."Female genital mutilation is
an abhorrent practice that has no place in this – or any other – society,"
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said in a statement.
"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," she added.
and psychological damage
FGM, sometimes referred to as female genital cutting or
circumcision, is a procedure which involves partial or full removal of the
external female genital organs. In some cases the vaginal opening is sewn
The ancient tradition, practiced throughout Africa and
pockets of the Middle East and Asia, can cause serious long-term physical and
The state-run NHS estimates that over 20 000 girls under the
age of 15 are at risk of FGM in the UK and that 66 000 women have been cut. The
real scale of the practice, which was criminalized in Britain three decades
ago, is unknown due to its secretive nature.
Under the government's plans, NHS staff will be required to
record if a patient has had FGM, if there is a family history of FGM and if an
FGM-related procedure has been carried out on a woman – such as
de-infibulation, which involves opening up of the vagina.
Campaigners say girls and women who are cut are most likely to
be identified when they seek treatment at a hospital or when they undergo
medical check-ups during pregnancy. It is important to register cases of FGM
because daughters of women who have been cut may be at risk and should be
monitored, they say.
First prosecution in
Other measures announced by the government on International
Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation included setting up a group
of leading anti-FGM campaigners to support the anti-FGM movement in
Africa."We will not see an end to FGM in the UK unless the practice is
eliminated worldwide. This will take a grassroots movement across Africa that
can change attitudes and help communities see FGM for what it is: child
abuse," International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone said in a
The government also launched an initiative inviting
charities to bid for up to R10 000 pounds ($16,290) to carry out FGM awareness
Read more: Britain
pledges £35m to end female genital mutilation
Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said there was no
justification whatsoever for female genital mutilation."It is child abuse
and it is illegal," he said, adding: "I am determined we do all we
can to bring perpetrators to justice.
The law in this country applies to absolutely everyone and
political or cultural sensitivities must not get in the way of preventing,
uncovering and prosecuting those who instigate and carry out FGM. "FGM was
criminalized in Britain in 1985, but until now there has not been a single
conviction. However, the Times newspaper reported that the first
prosecution for FGM was expected within weeks.
Janet Fyle, policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives,
welcomed the move to get NHS staff to record cases of FGM."You need to
prosecute those who subject children to the act that is FGM, but in order to do
that somebody needs to tell someone that it has happened to a child.
As it is now we have
no way of knowing because we do not record that information in a rigorous or
systematic manner," Fyle told Thomson Reuters Foundation. "We have to
lay the ground work first and then the prosecutions will follow," she
ban on female circumcision
cutting ban needs 'religious chiefs'
mutilation reduces sexual quality of life