Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is considered by the UN to be a ‘global concern’ and it has been frequently claimed that ‘tens of thousands’ of girls are at risk in the UK. The government has responded with stringent legislative and policy measures, but these measures have been implemented without substantial evidence regarding either the level of risk or the potential impact of such approaches on those targeted by the legislation and policy.
Based on six focus groups, our first report finds that safeguarding has been experienced as stigmatising, unjustified, and as an assault on belonging and citizenship. A sense of the exploitation of a disempowered community pervaded focus group discussions. The report highlights valuable opportunities for policymakers and other professionals to improve approaches to FGM-safeguarding in schools, healthcare settings, and by social services and the police. It also highlights the ineffectiveness and negative impact of national policy.
Our second report (coming soon) systemically reviews available data from which prevalence levels might be established. This work finds serious inadequacies in the data available, but also sufficient evidence to indicate that the level of risk among those living in the UK is minimal, with the numbers of girls affected in the tens rather than the tens of thousands. As a result of this work we are now working with local stakeholders to improve safe-guarding approaches; we have given evidence to the Scottish Executive; and we are part of the International Research Council on Genital Cutting Practices.
The focus group study was supported by funding from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law, University of Bristol. The prevalence study was supported by funding from the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, University of Bristol and the Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund.