Research reveals more than 70 women and girls seek treatment every month after undergoing illegal procedure, likely to be a fraction of the true figure – Published on The Guardian, by Alexandra Topping, June 24, 2013 (Photo: Efua Dorkenoo of Equality Now said of female genital mutilation: This is not a small problem, it is hidden).
The NSPCC is launching a helpline on Monday to protect children from FGM after research found that more than 1,700 victims were referred to specialist clinics in the past two years, likely to be a fraction of the true figure for women affected. The youngest victim was seven.
In one of the most significant developments in efforts to combat FGM in recent years, the helpline will provide a means to tackle this form of “complex and secretive abuse”, said Lisa Harker, the NSPCC’s head of strategy.
“The UK’s child victims of female genital mutilation are hidden behind a wall of silence. Like other forms of abuse, if female genital mutilation is not exposed it will continue to thrive and more children will suffer,” she said.
Harker said children who were victims of FGM or at risk often did not know it was abusive and harmful, because it was being done at the behest of their family. “They are told they are unclean and immoral if they are not ‘cut’ and that it is in their best interest,” she said. “There is also a huge pressure within these communities to keep quiet about female genital mutilation, with some people even being threatened with violence if they speak out. This is why we believe a dedicated helpline with specially trained child protection advisers is needed to help overcome the difficulties in protecting children from such a complex and secretive form of abuse.”
FGM – a dangerous procedure that involves the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs – is common in some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities in the UK.
Carried out in secret and often without anaesthetic, FGM has been illegal since 1985 but there has never been a prosecution over it in the UK … //
… “We need real proactive work from the government on this,” she said. “If this were happening in mainstream society the government would be moving heaven and earth to stop it. The helpline is a great first step but now we need a national plan – we need data, we need prevention, we need a conviction and we need professionals to stop looking at this as a cultural issue and start treating it as a child protection issue.”
See also a related article on The Guardian/DataBlog, by Mona Chalabi, June 24, 2013;
Evidence Shows That Illegal Female Genital Cutting Is a Growing Phenomenon in US: Up to 200,000 American girls and women are at risk, many of them sent abroad to undergo the procedure, on AlterNet, by Jodie Gummow, June 21, 2013;
Egyptian doctor accused in female genital mutilation death is released, the doctor accused of killing a 13-year-old during an illegal operation was released pending further investigation, on SALON, bx KATIE MCDONOUGH, June 13, 2013;
Fighting female genital mutilation in Africa: more than 100 million girls have suffered genital cutting to save family honour, on AlJazeera, by Davinder Kumar, June 16, 2013;
MPs urge more action on female genital mutilation, on BBCnews/UK politics, June 12, 2013: Female genital mutilation is not being properly tackled in the UK as police and social workers are afraid of being seen as politically incorrect, MPs say …;
UK letting down victims of female genital mutilation, on The Conversation, by Hazel Barrett, June 13, 2013.