Articles on Shifting Sands
Let’s protect our girls – from the FGM industry
Despite the paucity of evidence to indicate that FGM is happening in Britain, is a declining practice worldwide, and the few new cases being seen here are predominantly teenage genital piercings, instead of drawing the logical conclusion and winding down campaigns, the FGM industry with so many vested interests, spearheaded by the Home Office, has decided that even more ‘awareness raising’ is necessary – in the interest of girls. So it has launched a new campaign: ‘Let’s protect our girls.’
‘The design and messaging of the campaign was created in consultation with FGM victims and activists including the NSPCC, Forward UK, Midaye Somali Women’s Network, The Girl Generation and IKWRO.’ All are enthusiastic actors within the industry with their survival heavily reliant on its growth and development.
It highlights ‘the harmful health consequences of FGM and signposts the NSPCC’s 24 hour FGM helpline.’
NHS attendances for individual women and girls who had FGM identified or had treatment related to it are highlighted BUT, as usual, these are not new cases despite being popularly misunderstood as such. Attempts to explain this are met with scepticism, even by supposedly impartial professionals. It is also promoted as a ‘hidden crime’.
Contacts with the NSPCC helpline are also cited although what constitutes a contact is always vague. Maybe an enquiry from the public or health professional? A child ‘at risk’? A vengeful father accusing his wife of planning to harm their daughters? They nevertheless amount to approximately one-two per month only, and reflect little change since its launch in June 2013.
The Press Release, distributed 5 Oct 2018, is reproduced in full below.
‘LET’S PROTECT OUR GIRLS’ – HOME OFFICE LAUNCHES POWERFUL FGM AWARENESS CAMPAIGN
Campaign aimed at showing the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation
It sends a clear message that this horrific crime is child abuse and victims can suffer life altering health problems such as childbirth complications, period problems, scarring and mental health issues
Approach seeks to reach girls at risk across the UK and within communities where FGM is prevalent
The Home Office has today (October 5) launched an awareness campaign designed to help eradicate the horrific crime of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
The campaign sends a powerful message that communities should protect children from people who carry out this horrific practice, as it is child abuse and this will not be tolerated in the UK.
Through the tagline ‘Let’s Protect our Girls’, the Government want to ensure young girls and families know about the life altering health consequences of FGM. These can include:
- Childbirth complications
- Period problems
- Mental health issues
- Urinary infections
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said:
“Female Genital Mutilation has no place in modern society. It is repulsive, unethical and leaves victims with emotional and physical scars that last a lifetime.
“We have launched this important campaign to make it clear to everyone that the practice is illegal and has serious health consequences. I urge everyone to help protect girls at risk by spreading the messages.”
The design and messaging of the campaign was created in consultation with FGM victims and activists including the NSPCC, Forward UK, Midaye Somali Women’s Network, The Girl Generation and IKWRO.
The messages will be amplified using targeted print and radio adverts and materials will be distributed directly into communities where FGM is more prevalent. The campaign will also include recruiting FGM ambassadors and engaging with organisations on the ground to support its messaging.
The campaign will signpost people who want more information to the NSPCC’s helpline and website where they can find further help. This can be found at http://nspcc.org.uk/fgm or by contacting the free, anonymous helpline on 0800 028 3550.
John Cameron, NSPCC Head of Helplines, said:
“We know from calls to our dedicated helpline that Female Genital Mutilation is still affecting hundreds of girls in the UK. Sadly, the true picture of how many are affected is unknown because for far too long FGM has been cloaked in secrecy.
“We hope this campaign will help to end the silence that surrounds FGM by encouraging young people and any adults worried about them to speak out and get help. By joining forces across communities, we can bring an end to this dangerous and illegal practice.”
The campaign comes after NHS England statistics released in July show that between April 2017 and March this year, 6,195 individual women and girls had FGM identified or treatment related to it*.
However, FGM is still a hidden crime. A 2015 prevalence study by City University and Equality Now, which was part-funded by the Home Office, estimated that 137,000 women and girls who have migrated to England and Wales are living with the consequences of FGM.
The campaign will be placed into communities where, according to these statistics, FGM may be most prevalent. These include Sudanese, Somalian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Egyptian, Iraqi, Gambian and Nigerian communities.
The husband and two children of Sarian Karim Kamara feature in the campaign. The mother-of-five was just 11-years-old when she became an FGM victim, which later meant she suffered complications during childbirth.
“Efforts to end FGM is something every man and woman in society should be engaged in. FGM is, quite simply, child abuse.”
The campaign is the latest action the Government is taking to tackle so-called ‘Honour-Based Violence’.
- introducing a new offence of failing to protect a girl from FGM;
- extending the reach of extra territorial offences;
- introducing lifelong anonymity for victims of FGM;
- introducing civil FGM Protection Orders; and
- introducing a mandatory reporting duty for known cases of FGM in under 18s.
NOTES TO EDITORS
For more information call the Home Office Press Office on 0207 035 3535
Further information on the campaign can be found here
The latest NHS England annual statistics can be found here: NHS Digital FGM Enhanced Dataset, April 2017-March 2018.
Community engagement activity will be focused in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Leicester, Birmingham and Sheffield
The campaign is primarily targeting parents and families of girls at risk of FGM, aged between 18-45 year olds, and community elders aged 46+, from Sudanese, Somalian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Egyptian, Iraqi, Gambian and Nigerian communities. Evidence found that these communities had a knowledge gap about the long-term health consequences of FGM.
Since the NSPCC’s FGM helpline launched in June 2013 to the end of 2016/17 there were 1,626 contacts.
* the statistics show the number of women and girls who had an attendance in the NHS in England at which their FGM was identified or treated.
About the Author - Bríd Hehir
Bríd is a retired health professional. She started her career as a (volunteer) nurse and midwife in Africa, in Ethiopia and Botswana, 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.