The first prosecution for female genital mutilation is a watershed moment

However, several gaps in the implementation of policy continue to exist

Share

Getting a prosecution after so long is fantastic and a key part of ending female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK.  Whatever the outcome, this prosecution sends out a strong message that FGM is illegal and will not be tolerated. It also illustrates that FGM is allegedly still taking place in the UK despite the progress that has been made.

Some may say that it is long overdue, considering that laws have been in place here since 1985. What has made it possible for us to move the issue to the centre of health and social care policy is the growing voice of the younger generation of survivors of FGM who demand that the state protects them from the abuse of FGM. The Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service have responded accordingly to this call and have done a great job in breaking down the barriers.

This is a watershed moment and also a time to reflect and acknowledge the huge strides that have been made from when I started working on the issue over thirty years ago.  We are not there yet but FGM is well on its way to being truly mainstreamed in the UK – with thanks in particular to The Evening Standard, The Guardian, and The Sunday Times newspapers for helping us position the issue firmly in the national consciousness.

Although getting a prosecution is vital, it is only one part of the solution. Eliminating FGM in the UK requires a 'joined-up' approach that includes simultaneous actions directed at prevention, protection, provision of services, prosecution and partnerships across disciplines and with civil society groups. It is only through this ‘systems’ approach that we will prevent the practice going underground and assure protection for all girls from FGM.

The good news is that we have seen a tidal wave of change in the last two years, as health professionals have become more engaged. The NHS has commenced discussions related to documenting FGM in the UK, largely due to the dedication of Jane Ellison, formerly Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on FGM and recently appointed Public Health Minister, pushing forward the recommendations of a recent research report sponsored by the Home Office.

Last year’s Intercollegiate Report by the Royal Colleges and partners Equality Now and Unite the Union also produced a technical paper to support the identification, recording and reporting instances of FGM in the UK. At the core of this is early identification and prevention of FGM by frontline workers.

More recently, there have been some indications too that the education ministry, which was the missing link in the joined up work, may be finally acknowledging the obligation to play its role in both safeguarding girls at risk and providing support to young survivors of FGM. 

Front line professionals with a responsibility for child well-being need to be clear that FGM is child abuse and an extreme form of violence against women and girls.  Everyone should be aware of what their roles and responsibilities are in relation to health promotion, documenting, reporting and safeguarding. 

However, several gaps in the implementation of policy continue to exist.  There is still resistance by some professionals surrounding mandatory referrals and sharing information on FGM.  Another area which needs much more extensive work and funding is the provision of services – particularly psychosexual counselling – for survivors of FGM. 

A key reason why a prosecution has taken so long is due to the fact that young survivors fear reprisals from family and community members if they disclose. They need a safe space to meet as well as psychological and emotional support to speak out.  Some initiatives such as Leyla Hussein’s ‘Dahlia Project’ do exist but they are few and far between and absolutely under-resourced.  [delete sentence] Until survivors are empowered and provided with the space, services and support they need – we will not be able to really get to grips with the issue and the silence surrounding FGM will continue to be a challenge.

We are on the crest of a wave – a tipping point – in terms of ending FGM in the UK.  We need to ensure that every single girl is protected and part of this means that survivors are provided with a safe space to speak to help break the cycle of abuse.

The public is increasingly engaged and motivated to act.  The relevant policy is in place and front line professionals are being slowly equipped with the tools and information they need to ensure that FGM is streamlined into their child safeguarding procedures.  

There is no reason to continue to fail our girls. 

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before