There are some wonderful people in our local community working to end the horrific practice of Female Genital Mutilation. I’m really please that this afternoon we’ll be discussing and agreeing (I hope) a joint plan for the council and the health service plan to help tackle and end FGM in Reading.
There will sadly be, for many years, even if it stopped now, many women living with the consequences so as well as stopping this crime for the future it’s important to support survivors with both their physical and mental health.
The council press release on this is below:
A plan of action to protect girls from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is going before Reading Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board on 22nd January 2016.
The plan has been signed up to by all three councils in the west of Berkshire with the aim to increase awareness, training and understanding of the problem.
The local authorities are working in partnership with Thames Valley Police, The Royal Berkshire Hospital, Berkshire CCGs, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, local schools and charity organisation Alliance for Cohesion and Racial Equality (Acre).
Female genital mutilation (sometimes referred to as female circumcision) refers to procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is considered child abuse and is a violation of a girl’s right to life, their bodily integrity as well as of their right to health. The practice is illegal in the UK, regardless of nationality.
It is estimated that over 23,000 girls under the age of 15 in the UK are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) each year. Around 137,000 women in the UK are affected by FMG. However, the true extent is unknown, due to the “hidden” nature of the crime.
The report provides a summary of the work that has been undertaken to date and seeks endorsement of the proposed next steps.
The plan of action sets out how the councils will:
- audit the current guidance and information available
- understand the range and scale of FGM prevalence
- create and agree a shared single multi-agency pathway
- standardise a risk assessment tool across agencies
- ensure there is clear support for adults and children who have experienced FGM
- build future awareness of vulnerable children/families
Cllr Graeme Hoskin, lead member for health, said: “Although we still have a long way to go to fully understand the prevalence of FGM in the borough, this plan of action represents the first step in tackling this terrible abuse and preventing the unnecessary and devastating lifetime of physical, mental and emotional suffering it causes.”
Cllr Jan Gavin, lead member for children’s services, said: “Female Genital Mutilation is a serious form of child abuse, violence against women and a violation of human rights. There is absolutely no cultural or religious justification for this illegal practice and it must be stopped.
“We have identified the need to fully understand the range and scale of the issue, to ensure joint working between agencies and to make sure there is a clear support path for victims of this crime. Only by working together with our partners and the community can we hope to prevent, combat and tackle FGM.”
Victoria Hunter, Equalities Coordinator at the Alliance for Cohesion and Racial Equality (Acre), said: “The consequences of Female Genital Mutilation are life-long and innumerable. Legislation alone will not stop FGM. The key to ending FGM is to engage practicing communities in dialogue, provide them with the facts so that they can determine for themselves the devastating consequences and abandon the practice.
“Reading is developing a two-pronged approach – prevention in the community by raising awareness, and protection via a multi-agency information sharing framework. I am encouraged by the action taken thus far. These are important first steps. We must also ensure that we give girls and women struggling with the consequences of FGM the opportunity to heal, and flourish by ensuring peer and specialist support for them.”
Anyone wishing to seek help or report FGM should call the NSPCC FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org