Council Condemns Female Mutilation

By Kerryn Ramm

After a passionate support of the motion in early december, the topic of female genital mutilationfinally reached a full council board on Monday at the Health and Wellbeing Board.

In the world today it is thought that 120 million females have been cut in the 29 countries across Africa and Asia where FGM is concentrated. Nationwide, it is estimated that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk from FGM and 66,000 are living with the consequences of FGM. However, the extent of the problem is actually unknown due to the hidden nature of the crimes.

As it stands, offenders face a large fine and a prison sentence of up to 14 years. However, in this day and age it is undeniably shocking that no one in the UK has been prosecuted for crimes relating to FGM.

It is thought that parents who take their children out of the country to undergo the procedure may not realise that they are still committing a crime under UK law. The council is calling for better enforcement of the law against those who permit their children to undergo FGM and better education for girls and boys on the subject.

Ann Lucas, leading Coventry City Council member pointed out, “GPs need to start collating their data together so we can see just how many people have undergone FGM.”

“It’s an abhorrent crime.”

Already the Meridian Centre (a GP service for asylum seekers newly arrived in Coventry) routinely ask in their registrations for their female patients to state whether they have undergone FGM.

The council stated in the meeting that before the summer letters will go out to all head teachers in Coventry to instruct them to educate students in the run up to the holidays when it is common for girls to be taken abroad for the procedure.

Many women believe that the procedure is necessary to gain acceptance within their community and are oblivious that FGM is not practiced worldwide. The reasons for the surgery vary from purely tradition and a preservation of virginity, to family honour and hygiene/cleanliness. Studies show there are no health benefits from the procedure.

An FGM Helpline is available through the NSPCC website that can offer advice, information and support for any concerns to anyone at risk or knows someone at risk on 0800 028 3550 or fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk

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