New action against genital mutilation

The government is to produce a declaration against female genital mutilation (FGM) that will state that the practice is a criminal offence, including when a British citizen is outside the UK, and what the penalties are for anyone found committing or aiding the offence.

Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary under secretary of state for equalities at the Home Office, when she replied to a Commons adjournment debate on FGM on Thursday 5 July.

Additionally, it will include important advice and contact details for help and support. We hope that it will be an additional tool for families and girls who travel abroad that will clearly state the UK position. It will also complement the refresher training being given to consular staff over the summer and all consular staff will be aware of it.

Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon, a chartered psychologist who is leading research into psychological interventions to prevent the continued practice of FGM in the Somali communities in London and Birmingham, said:

"Some girls will be mutilated abroad this summer. The debate was called to publicise FGM in parliament before the school summer holidays start. It is good that that the government is doing something about FGM – we believe that it will help for future years. Right now it is necessary to educate teachers to understand the issue because many are oblivious to it or ignore it, as Jane Ellison, the Conservative backbencher who called the debate, and Lynne Featherstone said, on the basis of cultural sensitivity.

Dr Brooks-Gordon and her research team presented research suggesting a link between FGM and post-traumatic stress disorder at the Society's Annual Conference in London earlier this year. They called for cognitive-behavioural therapy and community support to be available to women who are affected.

Dr Brooks-Gordon said at the conference: “Our research is a comprehensive study to measure prevalence and incidence and also identify the factors like acculturation, increased educational level, the number of women who leave their partners over the issue, length of time living in  the UK or Europe, and other factors which mediate the influence that  men and extended family have on the mother. This has not, to our knowledge, been measured before.

"We feel that the debate highlights the need to increase public awareness of FGM, and the need to stop health care professionals from FGM-practising cultures using their medical knowledge for financial and personal gain at the expense of mutilating and inflicting child abuse in young girls.

"In addition, mothers need tools that will help them resist the pressure and coercion they experience, at times, at the hands of husbands and extended family. I am a strong advocate investing further resources into the protection of at-risk girls.”