It was announced this week that extra training is to be given to public sector staff to help them recognise girls who
It was announced this week that extra training is to be given to public sector staff to help them recognise girls who might be at risk of Female Genital Mutilation. The announcement was made by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at UNICEF’S Girl Summit held in London.
Mr Clegg told the summit: “Without the right knowledge, skills and experience, people feel like they don’t have the cultural understanding and authority to even talk about this practice honestly, never mind intervene when they’re worried someone is vulnerable.”
It follows a call by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, earlier in the year, which said school staff needed more training to help them identity and protect girls at risk.
The World Health Organization defines FGM as “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
It is thought that there are between 100 -140 million women who have undergone FGM worldwide, (WHO) with thousands of British girls included in that estimate.
It is not right that in a modern, civilized country this barbaric practice, which mutilates young girls’ organs so that they cannot experience normal healthy sexual relations, should be taking place.
We need to be able to talk about this issue honestly and transparently so communities are aware of the extreme long term damage FGM does to their daughters, sisters, and nieces. We need to raise awareness and challenge long-held assumptions. Hopefully this new support, along with other initiatives by the current government, will begin to have an effect in slowly halting the procedures and to see a change in attitudes towards female sexuality.
It’s sad that it’s taken so long for this support to be put in place while thousands of young girls’ lives may have been blighted but if education can prevent one girl having to go through this abhorrent experience then it’s worth it.
The Need To Take Action
Britain’s approach to tackling FGM in the past has been woeful, the practice is illegal in this country, but it was only in March of this year that the first prosecutions were announced by the Crown Prosecution Service(CPS). Compare that to France where there have been over a hundred prosecutions for this crime.
It is probable that teachers, doctors and social workers were already aware of the girls who might have been at risk but for whatever reason felt like they couldn’t speak out and raise warnings.
Steps should have been taken years ago to address this horrific mutilation of girls and women and to send the message that it is not a cultural practice that is welcome in the United Kingdom. But at least it is finally now being talked about and teachers, along with other public sector workers can be given the support they need to help the children they come across who may be at risk of the procedure.
However, it can’t just be the responsibility of teachers to raise warnings, the police and the CPS need to start prosecuting those who are suspected of this crime.
The fact that there has only been one case brought since FGM was made illegal in 1985 is pathetic. The victims of FGM deserve so much more.
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