A new UNICEF report shows the prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) in countries where the practice is still common.
Several useful insights reveal the expectation and pressure that some societies feel which perpetuate FGM and the important role of dialogue between men and women in the eradication of practice. The role of the mother in ending the practice is key.
Education has been highlighted as the most effective way to lower FGM as it empowers individuals but these programmes need to have the support of community leaders and must be sustained over time. It must be stressed that FGM has no known medical benefit to a woman and violates her human rights. It is a harmful practise which results in physical and psychological morbidity.
This study has recommended the total eradication of FGM and this includes the less severe forms of cutting.
The report also shows great progress in stopping the practice in some countries like Cameroon and Uganda. Lessons can be learnt from these countries.
For healthcare professionals, this report shows the ages when girls are likely to be cut (between 5 and 14 years of age) and the specific communities where infibulation, the most extreme form of FGM, is still practised.
It is the duty of doctors, nurses, midwives and health visitors to identify the girls whom they believe are at-risk and to share such information in good faith with the local safeguarding networks so these girls can be monitored and protected by social services. Such an approach follows the life-course model of health and social care that the RCOG advocates.
Dr Tony Falconer, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said, “It is shocking that an estimated 30 million girls worldwide are still at risk of FGM over the next ten years and this report has revealed the complex cultural and personal reasons why it still occurs.
“Closer to home, in the UK, we know that girls from certain immigrant communities are at grave risk. Multi-agency work is needed to influence the attitudes and behaviours of women and men from traditional communities. Such a programme of work needs to be done respectfully and sensitively.
“Mechanisms are needed to help healthcare professionals link up with social services but it is important that such information follows the individual so that comprehensive care and support can be provided to girls and women.”
To read the report Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change, click here.