Sunday Times front page on female genital mutilation in the UK

Finally, some solid investigative journalism around this issue in the UK. The piece in today’s Sunday Times by Mazher Mahmood and Eleanor Mills outlines three different medical providers (although this is dubious – one a doctor, one a dentist and one an “alternative practitioner”) who were filmed offering FGM of differing types.

The Sunday Times states the findings of the investigation uncovered:

  • A respected dentist prepared to circumcise two girls aged 10 and 12
  • A GP who referred a reporter to the dentist, suggesting taking girls to Africa for the procedure and offering to prescribe medication for them
  • A supplier of alternative medicines agreeing to circumcise a 10 year old girl for £750
  • The Met Police having received 166 reports of FGM since 2008 but, as with all forces across England and Wales, having secured no convictions.
  • The GMC having struck off only two doctors since 1980
  • A midwife in Birmingham having seen a trebling of mutilations since 2002.

However, what the article and the leader falls short of is any real comment or thoughts about what can be done about the situation. It offers little analysis about if young girls are going through FGM in the UK, how are they meant to give voice to their abuse and how they are meant to stand witness in order to see their parents prosecuted.  However, this is what must be grasped with issues of incest and other child abuse, so why not FGM?

Much, much more does need to be done and we do need greater resources to do this and, as ever, a top-down approach with strong guidance and legislation from government and statutory agencies, but also action from the grassroots up. As Naana Ooto-Oyortey from Forward, comments in the article:

“FGM continues to be a hidden issue in the UK…. There is a need to engage key communities.”

This article covers what so-called health practitioners are doing. It goes against every single code of medical ethics.  I’m just writing a report on a trip to Somalia – little did I think I would have to use the same UN agency language for a blogpost about the UK:

“Health professionals who perform female genital mutilation (FGM) are violating girls’ and women’s right to life, right to physical integrity, and right to health. They are also violating the fundamental ethical principle: “do no harm.” WHO Global Strategy to stop healthcare providers practising FGM, 2009

Equally, we know this is the tip of the iceberg, as anecdotal conversations tell us that the majority of UK based FGM is practised within communities and not by medical personnel. It will therefore be interesting, given we know the names of the three people involved, if anything happens in legislative or enforcement terms. As well as practitioners like these named in the Sunday Times article, people are sometimes flown in to practise FGC. Of course, many girls are sent to their country of origin too.

We will be attending the FGM Forum on Tuesday with the Home Office, the Met Police, other medical representatives and other NGOs. It will be an interesting discussion about what next in the UK.

In a typically Orchid aside, I would say that the more communities in Africa and overseas abandon, the more the diaspora communities will see that abandonment and if they are brought in on the process, they too can abandon. Although, we also know that in spite of footbinding ending in the Han ethnic group in around 1907 in China, the last footbound woman was in LA in the 1940’s, showing how diaspora communities also hold on to their traditions more than others.

We’ve got a long way to go…..