Articles on Shifting Sands
Ireland and FGM
Ireland’s first conviction for FGM is being retried
(June/July 2023) and we await the outcome.
In November 2019, the jury at Dublin’s Circuit Criminal Court found a Dublin couple guilty of being secondary participants to FGM – of aiding and abetting, counselling or procuring it on their nearly two year old daughter. The gardaí suspected it was carried out by a witch-doctor.
In November 2021, the conviction was squashed and the parents released on bail.
The retrial was held ‘in camera’ during June/July 2023.
Ireland’s response to FGM
In 2008, Ireland recognised that women and families from countries with high prevalence of FGM such as Northern Sudan (90% estimated prevalence of FGM in girls and women aged 15-49) and Somalia (98%) were migrating to Ireland and began to prepare and develop a response.
Although it did not have the extensive anti-FGM media and propaganda campaigns that Britain did, it’s likely that it was exposed to some, and health professionals, paediatricians, midwives and public health professionals would probably have had education and training in regard to it.
Ireland’s first FGM trial took place in Nov 2019. This was during the UK’s moral panic in regard to the practice and soon after its first conviction was secured, much to the relief of UK authorities.
Development of initiatives in Ireland
In November 2008, the first National Plan of Action to address Female Genital Mutilation (2008-2011) was launched
From 2010, having been granted refugee status in Ireland, Somali born Ifrah Ahmed campaigned against and helped raise awareness of FGM.
In September 2010, research undertaken by the charity AkiDwA estimated the number of women with FGM living in Ireland had increased from 2,585 in 2007 to 3,170.
On 31 Jan 2011, the National Steering Committee on FGM wrote to all political parties contesting the next General Election, asking for their commitment to ensure legislation on FGM would be at the top of their policy agenda, and the criminalisation of FGM would be accorded priority within the Government’s Programme.
In February 2011, Ireland marked the seventh International Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation Day.
In May 2011 The European Court of Human Rights agreed that a Nigerian woman and her two daughters, whom she claimed faced the risk of FGM, could return there because the prevailing political and legal situation in parts of the country meant that internal relocation was available to them.
In 2012, The Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012 was passed and made it illegal to perform FGM in Ireland or to take a girl out of Ireland for that purpose.
AkiDwA published a guide (date unknown) as a working tool for teachers at primary and second level and teacher educators to assist in the safeguarding of children from FGM. It also published Information for Health-Care Professionals Working in Ireland (2nd Edition, 2013).
In May 2014 the first specialist clinic opened in Dublin for the estimated 4000 women affected by FGM
In March 2018, the National Plan for Action to Address Female Genital Mutilation was updated and published. An objective of the Plan was to improve data collection of women with FGM presenting to maternity hospitals. Data, if collected, is difficult to access. But in 2018, Dublin’s Rotunda (Maternity) Hospital reported it treated nine women in 2017 and 15 in 2018 for “issues relating to FGM”.
In Nov 2019, World Vision Ireland assessed that 3,780 females in Ireland had suffered FGM in the past eight years – with 1,632 girls at high risk of it. It warned that the real figure could be a lot higher “‘because families go abroad to undergo the dangerous procedure”.
At the 2019 Nairobi Summit, the Irish Government committed “to fostering collaboration between networks, to inform and train Garda members, to develop and implement education and public awareness campaigns among all health professionals and communities affected by FGM and to provide training to increase the knowledge and competence of healthcare providers.”
In Nov 2019, Information for Health-Care Professionals Working in Ireland, first published in 2008, was published online.
On 27 Jan 2020, Ireland’s first conviction for FGM was secured.
In Feb 2020 the Garda’s Protective Services Bureau was reported to be working on FGM guidelines for the force.
In March 2023, The Minister for Justice promised that the Third Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence committed to put in place special health support services required by victims/survivors of FGM. To fulfil this, Ireland’s health service would commence a mapping exercise of current service provision with a view to identifying gaps in the provision to victims/survivors of FGM. This mapping would include consultation with relevant community support organisations and looking at the needs assessment of staff.
2023. The IFPA runs Ireland’s only clinic for the treatment of FGM. It provides free medical and psychological care for women and girls affected by FGM, including referral for surgical assessment when required.
2023. The IFPA advertises one-hour presentation on FGM (online or in person) to healthcare professionals and other service providers, like social workers.
2023. On a website search (Aug 9th), Ireland’s Child & Family Agency, TUSLA, did not return any results for ‘FGM’.
Two FGM prevalence studies were carried out in Ireland. The first was published in 2008, and the second in 2010. A third was planned.
In Oct 2020, a piece of original research was published, led by Dr Hodes. It confirmed that few young children were presenting with FGM in Britain or Ireland. The few instances being reported were historic – carried out prior to the children arrived in either country.
About the Author - Bríd Hehir
Bríd is a retired health professional. She started her career as a nurse and midwife in Africa where she worked for almost four years. She encountered FGM/C in Ethiopia. She then moved to London where she worked in the National Health Service as a midwife, community nurse, health visitor, reproductive and sexual health nurse and manager over a period of 30 years. She did not encounter FGM/C during that time despite working with immigrant communities who are reported to practice it still. She is puzzled by the current reported prevalence of the practice, the official response and associated activism. And is worried that they might cause more harm than good.