Eliminating FGM in the UK: The Way Forward

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Efua Dorkenoo, OBE & Jane Ellison MP in UK House of Commons.

“Equality Now welcomes moves by the UK Home Office, the DPP, the NSPCC, the Department of Health and the Royal College of Midwives to deal head-on with the barriers that exist in eliminating FGM in the UK. The laws and resources needed to stop this destructive practice are already in place, so there is no excuse for continuing to fail our girls. We hope that our work in the UK will provide a practical model, which can be implemented in other countries”. --Efua Dorkenoo, OBE, Advocacy Director, FGM Programme, Equality Now

According to the most recent estimates, 66,000 women and girls have undergone FGM in England and Wales, while 24,000 girls under the age of 11 are at risk of undergoing it. However, despite the fact that FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, there has never been a single prosecution.

Equality Now is a key player in developing a coordinated ‘joined-up’ approach, which breaks down the barriers relating to both prevention and prosecution for the crime of FGM. Supported by the December 2012 UN Global Ban on FGM, Equality Now is committed to the implementation of systems to comprehensively educate parents, law enforcement professionals, medical professionals, educators, social workers and anyone in regular contact with children, on their obligations to safeguard children from this severe form of violence.

Successes of the ‘Joined-Up’ Approach to Prevention and Prosecution of FGM in the UK

  • The Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists worked with Equality Now and UNITE the union on a groundbreaking report, ‘Tackling FGM in the UK: Intercollegiate recommendations for identifying, recording and reporting’, which makes nine key recommendations relating to information gathering, sharing and training of front-line professionals to ensure that multi-agency systems are put in place to prevent FGM and to comprehensively protect girls at risk from even before they are born.
  • Along with Daughters of Eve, Equality Now is calling on the Home Office to take leadership on FGM in the UK and to implement a National Strategy and Action Plan to effectively deal with this issue. The petition was officially launched on 6 November 2013 as part of a Channel 4 documentary called ‘The Cruel Cut’.
  • Under guidance from Equality Now and other groups, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) launched an FGM helpline in June 2013.  Over a three month period, there were 102 calls relating to women and girls at risk of FGM – 38 of which were referred to the police for further investigation.
  • Equality Now has worked alongside the Evening Standard newspaper and a range of other high-profile media outlets to ensure that FGM is mainstreamed in the UK. This culminated in a front-page article on 6 September 2013 which showed that the true scale of FGM in London is much higher than data shows and a front-page article in The Guardian on why the UK must act to half mutilation of girls.
  • The London Metropolitan Police has worked closely with Equality Now and other strategic partners to break down the barriers to prosecution for FGM crime in the UK.
  • In early 2012, Equality Now organised a research methodological workshop,which highlighted the gaps in prevention and prosecution of FGM. Leading on from this, with funding from Trust for London and the UK Home Office, an updated prevalence study of FGM in England and Wales is currently in production, with an envisaged release date of March 2014.
  • Equality Now was a key partner in the development of a ‘Health Passport’ launched in late 2012 by the Home Office. This document outlines UK laws on FGM and is designed to either fit into the back of a girl’s passport or to be carried by parents who want to protect their daughter from extended family members.
  • In late 2012, the UK Director of Public Prosecutions (DDP), Keir Starmer QC, published an Action Plan on tackling FGM in the UK. Equality Now is one of only two non-governmental organisations which were asked to be part of to the DPP’s Steering Group on FGM Law in the UK.

Raising Awareness of FGM in the UK
Equality Now is a source of information on FGM for various groups. It provided key analysis for the UK section of a report which seeks to map both the current situation and recent trends of the prevalence of FGM in the EU. It also contributed to the Trust Law Special Coverage on FGM, the Department for International Development’s Special Initiative on FGM and the UK-wide Special Community Initiative on FGM, which operates at a grassroots level and which was established and funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Trust for London and Rosa, the UK’s Women’s Fund.

Equality Now holds consultative status with the United Nations ECOSOC and brings over 20 years of expertise from working on this issue at a global level. To take action on our current campaigns, please click here.