Shining a light on FGM

New figures from England this week have once again brought the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) into the spotlight.

The term FGM refers to a range of procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Charities say it is difficult to know the extent of the practice and the number of women affected in the UK..

At Waverley Care, FGM has emerged as an issue through engagement with our African Health Project.  As well as being an essential part of conversations we initiate around sexual health, there are serious concerns about HIV transmission during FGM practice from unsterilised equipment.

Like HIV, we have found that attitudes in Scotland’s African communities to FGM are heavily influenced by cultural factors. In practising communities, FGM is seen as a social convention – a necessary part of raising young women that is closely tied to sexuality, morality and modesty. Through our work, we are seeking to highlight the serious safety risks associated with the procedure, alongside the short and long term health implications and the fact that the practice is illegal in Scotland.

Very little is currently known about the prevalence of FGM but there is an increased focus on tackling the issue.

In December last year, the Scottish Refugee Council published research which identified that there are almost 24,000 people in Scotland who were born in one of the 29 countries identified by UNICEF as practising FGM.  These people are considered as communities potentially affected by FGM and the report makes a range of recommendations around prevention, protection, service provision and participation.

Coverage of FGM is important to prompt further discussion, raising awareness and ensuring that the issue remains a priority for policy makers.

If you are interested in finding our more about FGM, we recommend FGM Aware as a source of information.