At VCF we do not think it helpful to single out specific communities. FGM is practiced across the world, albeit more prevalent in some countries than others. What is important is that the indicators will be the same for professionals who seek to understand the background and context to what many in the community see as a protective factor for their child. We need to be able to both identify, and respond appropriately to any child at risk of abuse.
There is clear consensus on FGM as child abuse; there also exists a multi-agency approach and response within the existing child protection framework. Schools play a unique role in identifying risk although we would urge a sensitive and holistic approach to avoid reactive responses.
A young girl being supported by VCF was experiencing poor attendance at school. VCF intervention was sought to work with the young person during the summer months with a view to her agreeing to a reversal of the FGM procedure in the autumn. We supported the young person through our Active Listening programme for young victims of abuse; her school attendance improved once we were able to see the underlying causes for her absence. FGM was not the issue; rather we attributed her poor performance to poor parenting.
At VCF, we believe that FGM can be eventually eradicated in the UK as prevalent communities are aware of the legislation forbidding the practice of FGM. However, it is important that we continue the work that needs to be done within the community.
Through better understanding of indicators, professionals are better placed to share information, but must decide how, when, where and with whom to share. Interaction and engagement should be in a manner that is holistic and sensitive. And above all, we need to respect the culture and religious values of the relevant communities; to firmly address the harmful practices, not their beliefs.
VCF is the leading independent organisation addressing issues of child abuse linked to faith or belief across all ethnicities.
Government FGM legislation: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/9/part/5/crossheading/female-genital-mutilation/enacted