Female genital mutilation (FGM)
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a criminal offence – it is child abuse and a form of violence against women and girls, and therefore should be treated as such. Cases should be dealt with as part of existing structures, policies and procedures on child protection and adult safeguarding. There are, however, particular characteristics of FGM that front-line professionals should be aware of to ensure that they can provide appropriate protection and support to those affected.
- FGM is illegal in the UK. For the purpose of the criminal law in England and Wales, FGM is mutilation of the labia majora, labia minor or clitoris.
- FGM is an unacceptable practice for which there is no justification. It is child abuse and a form of violence against women and girls.
- FGM is prevalent in 30 countries. These are concentrated in countries around the Atlantic coast to the Horn of Africa, in areas of the Middle East, and in some countries in Asia.
- It is estimated that approximately 103,000 women aged 15-49 and approximately 24,000 women aged 50 and over who have migrated to England and Wales are living with the consequences of FGM. In addition, approximately 10,000 girls aged under 15 who have migrated to England and Wales are likely to have undergone FGM.
- FGM is a deeply embedded social norm, practised by families for a variety of complex reasons. It is often thought to be essential for a girl to become a proper woman, and to be marriageable. The practice is not required by any religion.
Potential School Action
All staff should be aware of risk factors, warning signs and indicators of FGM as part of their duties around safeguarding. As of the 31 October, 2015, a mandatory reporting duty which requires regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales to report ‘known’ cases of FGM in under 18s which they identify in the course of their professional work to the police comes into force. Schools should also be aware of what to say (and what not to say) if a girl/young woman discloses that they are at risk of or have suffered FGM. Teachers, along with health and social care professionals, are required under a new mandatory duty in the Serious Crime Act (2015), to report any cases of known female genital mutilation disclosed by anyone under 18 years of age to the police.
Where female genital mutilation is known either through disclosure or the observation of physical signs (through normal day to day practice e.g. nappy changing, personal care etc., school staff should:
- follow their school’s child protection policy and report any case of known female genital mutilation to the designated safeguarding lead immediately, ensuring a written record of the concern or disclosure
- the teacher should immediately make a report to the police (orally or in writing – recommended route: call 101) providing the following information:
- explain that you are making a report under the FGM mandatory reporting
- your details: name; contact details (work telephone number and e-mail address); times when you will be available to be called back; role; and, place of work
- details of your organisation’s designated safeguarding lead: name; contact details (work telephone number and e-mail address); and, place of work
- the girl’s details: name; age/date of birth; and address
- the report should be logged by the designated safeguarding lead on the school child protection file or record, ensuring police notification is logged including the case reference number.
Where FGM is suspected or recognised as a risk, school staff should:
- follow their school’s child protection policy and report any case of known female genital mutilation to the designated safeguarding lead immediately, ensuring a written record of the concern or disclosure.
- refer the case to the Solihull Multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH). The referral should be of good quality clearly stating all known facts. All female genital mutilation cases entering MASH go straight to a strategy discussion, police are informed as part of the multi-agency discussion who update their information and investigate as appropriate.
The Solihull LSCB web pages provide comprehensive guidance and advice for front line professionals and their managers, individual’s in Solihull’s local communities and community groups such as faith and leisure groups on:
- Identifying when a child may be at risk of being subjected to FGM and responding appropriately to protect the child;
- Identifying when a child has been subjected to FGM and responding appropriately to support the child; and
- Measures which can be implemented to prevent and ultimately eliminate the practice of FGM.
Additional sources of information and advice (awareness raising with staff)
- Schools may wish to provide parents/carers with information about FGM including its prevalence, legal status and where to access support. Workshops addressing how to keep their children safe aimed at parents may also be helpful.
Curriculum (universal provision through planned PSHE and Science)
It is up to schools, colleges and universities to decide exactly how they address FGM, taking account of the numbers of pupils from relevant communities. They can, however, create an ‘open’ and supportive environment by raising awareness through learning in sex and relationship education within PSHE. Listed below are some helpful resources and information about FGM for teachers.
- Infant and primary schools: effective sex and relationship education within PSHE can help pupils keep themselves safe from harm through building their confidence to ask for help, learning that their body belongs to them and giving them the language to describe private parts of their body. The Sex Education Forum and PSHE Association have advice and guidance on effective teaching and learning in sex and relationship education and PSHE.
- Birmingham Against FGM provides a range of resources to support schools with raising awareness around FGM including signposting to materials for use in the classroom. The Ofsted Good Practice case study about Parkfield Community Primary School can be downloaded providing an example of how community engagement can be used to support the drive to end FGM.
- My body, My rules is a short film that describes what Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is, and why it is wrong. It has been designed for use with primary aged pupils. A version of the same film entitled Needlecraft for secondary aged pupils is also available.
- Key Stage 3 (Y7) lesson plan produced by Islington Council to raise awareness of the practice of FGM and provide information on how and where young people can get help.
- The FGM Fact File – Interactive Teaching Resource is a teaching resource by the Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development (FORWARD) – see ‘Training’ section below – for use in secondary schools (Y9-11) as part of personal, social and health education. It aims to raise young people’s awareness of FGM, help them realise that it is a form of abuse, and make them aware of who and where they can go to for help. There is also a teachers pack to support the resource.
- The film ‘Best of British’ by Values vs Violence looks at personal choices and values and community cohesion issues, and is aimed at sixth form and university students.
- A DVD for secondary school staff on how to tackle FGM issues is available from Integrate Bristol, a charity that works towards equality and integration.
Involving other agencies and signposting
- Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid Helpline: 0808 800 0028 (free from most mobiles and landlines)
FGM Project: 0121 685 8687 (ask for Khadija Jaamac)
- NSPCC FGM Helpline: 0800 028 3550 and emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org (a resource for both community and professionals.
- FORWARD (Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development) 020 8960 4000 – forwarduk.org.uk
- Daughters of Eve 07983030488 – dofeve.org/stopping-fgm.html Daughters of Eve is a non profit organisation that works to protect girls and young women who are at risk from female genital mutilation (FGM).
- African Well Woman’s Service (Birmingham Heartlands Hospital) Alison Hughes 0781 7534274
Weekly clinic Friday mornings
- African Well Women’s Service (Birmingham Women’s hospital) Alison Hughes 07738 741614
Weekly clinic Thursday mornings
Updates and changes
These pages are updated regularly and should be used as the main source of information. Printed versions should be used with care as they can become out of date.