Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is any procedure involving the partial or total removal of the clitoris or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Each year 3 million girls undergo FGM. While often associated with African countries, FGM is also common in the Middle East. In some parts of Iraqi Kurdistan more than 80% of women have undergone FGM, and it is also prevalent in non Kurdish parts of Iraq, as well as in Yemen, Iran, Syria, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
In the UK, research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine indicates that some 66,000 girls may be at risk of FGM. The Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2003 makes it illegal to practice FGM here or to take any girl or woman who is living here abroad for FGM. Those who do this can face up to 14 years in prison. So far though, there have been no prosecutions.
In February 2011, the government launched new guidelines to help police officers, school teachers, social workers and other professionals to protect children at risk of FGM. However IKWRO is concerned that these guidelines are not reaching the professionals who need them because there is no proper strategy for rolling them out in local areas. Just one month after they were released the FGM Coordinator – the only post across all of government which is dedicated to tackling FGM – was scrapped. The government is not investing the time or resources needed to fight FGM, and as a result young girls are still not getting the protection they need.
We are working with other organisations to increase the government’s commitment to tackling FGM and to push for more effective enforcement of the existing laws. We also work to raise awareness of FGM, particularly among Middle Eastern communities, and can provide advice and practical help to women or girls at risk.
In 2013, the NSPCC launched a 24 hour helpline for girls and women fearing FGM.
Check out our blog at the Independent to mark International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM.
The 24-hour NSPCC helpline is 0800 028 3550.