Safeguarding Girls & Young Women
Safeguarding Girls and Young Women
FGM (Female Genital Mutilation)
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a collective term for procedures that include the removal of part or all of the external female genitalia, for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons. The practice is medically unnecessary, extremely painful and has serious health consequences, both at the time when the mutilation is carried out and in later life. The procedure is typically performed on girls aged between four and 13, but in some cases FGM is performed on newborn infants or on young women before marriage or pregnancy. A number of girls die as a direct result of the procedure, from blood loss or infection.
FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 was passed. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 replaced the 1985 Act and makes it an offence, for the first time, for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to carry out FGM abroad, or to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad, even in countries where the practice is legal.
FGM is much more common than most people realise, both worldwide and in the UK. It is reportedly practised in 28 African countries and in parts of the Middle and Far East, but is increasingly found in Western Europe and other developed countries, primarily among immigrant and refugee communities. There are substantial populations from countries where FGM is endemic in London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield and Cardiff, but it is likely that communities in which FGM is practised reside throughout the UK.
Suspicions may arise in a number of ways that a child is being prepared for FGM to take place abroad. These include knowing that the family belongs to a community in which FGM is practised and is making preparations for the child to take a holiday, arranging vaccinations or planning absence from school. The child may also talk about a ‘special procedure’ taking place. Indicators that FGM may already have occurred include prolonged absence from school, with noticeable behaviour change on return and long periods away from classes or other normal activities, possibly with bladder or menstrual problems. Midwives and doctors may become aware that FGM has been practised on an older woman, and this may prompt concern for female children in the same family.
A local authority (LA) may exercise its powers under s47 of the Children Act 1989 if it has reason to believe that a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, FGM. However, despite the very severe health consequences, parents and others who have this done to their daughters do not intend it as an act of abuse. They genuinely believe that it is in the girl’s best interests to conform to their prevailing custom. So, where a child has been identified as at risk of significant harm, it may not be appropriate to consider removing the child from an otherwise loving family environment. Where a child appears to be in immediate danger of mutilation, consideration should be given to getting a prohibited steps order. If a child has already undergone FGM, particular attention should be paid to the potential risk of harm to other female children in the same family.
In local areas where there are communities who traditionally practise FGM, consideration should be given to incorporating more detailed guidance on responding to concerns about FGM into existing procedures to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
· Over 138 million women and girls world-wide are affected.
· Girls and women die from the short-term-effects: from hemorrhage, surgical shock and infection.
· Girls and women die in the long term due to recurrent UTIs (urinary tract infections), vaginal infections, and complications in childbirth.
· FGM (type 3) increases the risk of mothers suffering perinea tears, post partum hemorrhage and obstructed labour, and it also increases the risk to the health and well-being of the unborn child.
· FGM causes pain during intercourse, and infertility.
· The psychological impact of FGM on girls and women has yet to be comprehensively researched.
Following are some of the reasons why FGM is Carried:
· Culture/Tradition/Rite of passage.
· Religious obligation.
· Virginity – to prevent promiscuity.
· Increase marriage ability.
· Clear gender role definition.
FGM and Islam
· Though many functions connected with women such as pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, divorce and menstruation are mentioned in the Koran, it contains no specific mention of FGM.
· There is nothing in Islam that makes females circumcision a required tradition. This is why many Islamic states that follow strictly the Islamic law do not circumcise female children (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Libya and Morocco).
· Since it has been proven that circumcision is a harmful attack on the girl’s body, then this is neither an order from God nor an order from tradition.
· FGM is practiced by community members who are Muslim, Christian, Animist and non-believers.
· FGM predates Islam.
· A number of Islamic scholars have issued various Islamic Fatwa on the issue of FGM most of which have dissociated FGM from Islam, quoting both the Quran as well as Hadith.
The issue of forced marriages has been traditionally treated with hesitation by the government, for fear of offending culturalsensitivities. Forced marriages are not the same as arranged marriages. An arranged marriage is performed with the full and free consent of both parties and is still the chosen practise for many people all over the world.
Forced marriages are a result of cultural factors, and no major religion in the world advocates forced marriages.
A forced marriage is a marriage conducted without the consent of one or both parties, where pressure is a factor.
In 1999, the government set up a working group to tackle the issue of forced marriages. An important distinction was made between forced and arranged marriages.
Although it is not known exactly how many people each year are forced into marriages, the Government's Forced Marriage Unit sees at least 250 cases each year. Forced marriage affects men and women from all over the world, and across many cultural groups. members of the British aristocracy in the past. It is important to understand that it is not limited to just a few cultural groups, although it does usually affect women who are of South Asian origin.
Most victims are young women between the ages of 14 - 25, but only those who are aged 16 and over get married in this country. Girls who are much younger are sometimes taken to other countries and made to marry whilst there.
Men are also affected, although information for this is even more limited than for women, due to underreporting. Men are not always subject to the same cultural expectations as women, so the number of forced marriage instances for men is much lower.
Forced marriage affects men and women from all over the world, and across many cultural groups. The British Royal Family even has a history of it, as did many Victims often feel lonely and depressed. The suicide rate among Asian women in the UK is two to three times the national average, and it is suggested that this is partly a result of the weight of expectations on the role of women and their marriage expectations. Traditionally, women in Asian societies have held positions of great responsibility, which have required them to maintain certain moral standards. Marriage at a young age, to people of the same caste, race, or religion was hugely important in community relations. The role of the woman as a mother remains an important one in many cultures, and carries great responsibility in shaping the future of a society. The pressure on women who have not grown up with the same cultural values as their parents is often great. Many do not wish to disobey their parents, and some may be afraid of estrangement if they refuse.
Following is a list of motives for forced marriage:
Controlling unwanted behaviour and sexuality - particularly in women
• Protecting 'family honour'
• Responding to peer group or family pressure
• Attempting to strengthen family links
• Ensuring land, property and wealth remain in the family
• Protecting perceived cultural ideas
• Preventing 'unsuitable' relationships e. g outside the ethnic, cultural, caste or religious group
• Assisting claims for residence and citizenship
• Fulfilling long standing family commitments
A small number of parents take their children to a foreign country, under false pretences, and force them to marry when they arrive. This is often done to avoid British age restrictions on marriage, or to marry the victim in a country with more relaxed rules on marriage. There has been some discussion about whether or not to make the practise of forcing someone to marry into a specific crime.
The points below highlight some of the issues that the government faces:
• There is a risk that the fear of families being prosecuted may stop victims from asking for help. Many victims do not want their families to get into trouble
• There is an increased risk of parents taking children abroad to get them married there, to avoid prosecution in Britain.
• Some people think that the current laws are sufficient to protect victims
• Because it is difficult to collect evidence and victims are reluctant to testify against family members it may be difficult to bring about a successful prosecution. This could devalue the offence.
• The offence would disproportionately affect ethnic minority communities and may be interpreted as an attack on those communities.
• Families concerned may not feel that such an offence affects them because they may believe they have their child's consent, even though they have pressurised them.
• Implementing a new offence would be expensive. The money might be better spent on improving support for victims.
• Increased risks of prosecution or threat of prosecution would make it harder for victims to reconcile with their families.
• Increased involvement in criminal proceedings might be harrowing for victims who wanted to move on.
• Some people believe there are better, non-legislative means of working within communities