Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

What should our school’s safeguarding policy say about FGM?

The statutory guidance ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ published in April 2014, asks schools to ensure that they raise awareness of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Staff should be aware of FGM and it should be included in your policy where the different types of abuse and neglect are set out.

Female Genital Mutilation occurs mainly in Africa and to a lesser extent, in the Middle East and Asia. Although it is believed by many to be a religious issue, it is a cultural practice. There are no health benefits.

Communities particularly affected by FGM in the UK include girls from:

Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Egypt, Nigeria, Eritrea, Yemen, Indonesia and Afghanistan.

In the UK, FGM tends to occur in areas with larger populations of communities who practise FGM, such as first-generation immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. These areas include:

London, Cardiff, Manchester, Sheffield, Northampton, Birmingham, Oxford, Crawley, Reading, Slough and Milton Keynes.

In England and Wales, 23,000 girls under 15 could be at risk of FGM.

Key Points:

  • Not a religious practice
  • Occurs mostly to girls aged from 5 – 8 years old; but up to around 15
  • Criminal offence in UK since 1985
  • Offence since 2003 to take girls abroad
  • Criminal penalties include up to 14 years in prison

Reasons for this cultural practice include:

  • Cultural identity – An initiation into womanhood
  • Gender Identity – Moving from girl to woman – enhancing femininity
  • Sexual control – reduce the woman’s desire for sex
  • Hygiene/cleanliness – unmutilated women are regarded as unclean

Risk Factors include:

  • low level of integration into UK society
  • mother or sister who has undergone FGM
  • girls who are withdrawn from PSHE
  • a visiting female elder from the country of origin
  • being taken on a long holiday to the family’s country of origin
  • talk about a ‘special’ event or procedure to ‘become a woman’

High Risk Time

This procedure often takes place in the summer, as the recovery period after FGM can be 6
to 9 weeks. Schools should be alert to the possibility of FGM as a reason why a girl in a high risk group is absent from school or where the family request an ‘authorised absence’ for just before or just after the summer school holidays.

Although, it is difficult to identify girls before FGM takes place, where girls from these high risk groups return from a long period of absence with symptoms of FGM, advice should be sought from the police or social services.

Post-FGM Symptoms include:

  • difficulty walking, sitting or standing
  • spend longer than normal in the bathroom or toilet
  • unusual behaviour after a lengthy absence
  • reluctance to undergo normal medical examinations
  • asking for help, but may not be explicit about the problem due to embarrassment or fear.

Longer Term problems include:

  • difficulties urinating or incontinence
  • frequent or chronic vaginal, pelvic or urinary infections
  • menstrual problems
  • kidney damage and possible failure
  • cysts and abscesses
  • pain when having sex
  • infertility
  • complications during pregnancy and childbirth
  • emotional and mental health problems

Online Training Programme

The Home Office has created a free online learning package to help professionals across all disciplines understand FGM and help them identify and assist girls who are at risk.

FGM e-Learning

Resources

Leaflet: Home Office FGM Leaflet

Poster: NSPCC

Resources including print and videos: Home Office

Fact Sheet: Female Genital Mutilation (No. 241) World Health Organisation

Helpline: NSPCC FGM Helpline 0800 028 3550 or email fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk

 

Resources for Deeper Understanding:

UNICEF: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

Journal Articles

Review: Obstetric management of women with female genital mutilation
Rashid M, Rashid MH. The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist 2007;9:95–101

An Overview of Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria
Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research. 2012 Jan-Jun; 2(1): 70–73.

Statistics

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)  Experimental Statistics

What to include in the school’s Safeguarding Policy

If your school has a low number of girls from at risk communities

1. Add the definition of FGM into your safeguarding policy.

2. Add a paragraph like this one:

‘At [school] will believe that all our pupils should be kept safe from harm. Female Genital Mutilation affects girls particularly from north African countries, including Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and Sierra Leone. Although our school has no/few children from these backgrounds and consider girls in our school safe from FGM, we will continue to review our policy annually.’

If your school has a high number of girls from at risk communities

1. Add the definition of FGM into your safeguarding policy.

2. Add a paragraph like this one:

‘At [school] will believe that all our pupils should be kept safe from harm. Female Genital Mutilation affects girls particularly from north African countries, including Egypt, Sudan, Somalia… [Use the country list above to complete this sentence and ensure that it includes the countries your students families originate from.]

‘It is illegal in the United Kingdom to allow girls to undergo female genital mutilation either in this country or abroad. People guilty of allowing FGM to take place are punished by fines and up to fourteen years in prison.

‘At [school] we have a duty to report concerns we have about girls at risk of FGM to the police and social services.’

3. Use the information above to add further paragraphs about

  • Key Issues
  • Risk factors
  • High Risk Absences
  • Symptoms
  • Long term health problems

4. In the report to Governors, it is worth estimating the numbers of pupils in your school are at risk and outline the steps you are taking to manage the risk

5. For the Designated Safeguarding Lead or Leadership Team:

Identify the names of pupils who might be at risk of FGM and ensure that they are monitored around the crucial times, particularly coming up to the summer holiday.

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