The Government has announced that it intends to make it a legal requirement that those working within the social, health and education sectors must disclose any cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) they encounter.

The new law will apply to cases of ‘known’ FGM – in other words instances which are disclosed by the victim or are visually confirmed – and if the professional fails to disclose it they could lose their job.

Over 130 million women and girls have experienced FGM in the 29 countries in which it is concentrated. It is the act of removing the outer female genitalia.

 What those individuals practicing FGM, and those allowing it to be carried out, needed to know was that it is not acceptable practice in the UK.

And so a consultation was started back in December 2013 and ran until December last year. Its purpose was to enable the Government to explore fully how to introduce a mandatory reporting requirement for cases of FGM.

It wanted to know what and who should be covered by the requirement, which agencies the requirement should apply to, how the requirement would work in practice and  the sanctions which should be imposed for failure to comply with it.

As a direct result of the findings, professionals are now expected to refer cases appropriately, as set out in the multi-agency guidelines on FGM and using the existing safeguarding framework and procedures.

The government says it understands that introducing a mandatory duty will impact on many different sectors and recognises the complexities surrounding its policing, but given the actions in flagging up FGM in the past and the low number of referrals to the police, it believes that introducing such a duty will be an important step forward in tackling FGM.

Those in charge of implementing the new legislation also agree that it will remain hugely difficult to identify types 1 and 4 FGM, and that there are currently issues with training professionals across the sector.

The law will be limited to those victims under 18, those who work within the healthcare, teaching and social care sector and, most notably perhaps, discoveries need to be disclosed to the police within one month of identification.

The Athena Programme thinks this is a real breakthrough for victims past and present:

“This new mandatory reporting is welcome both for the landscape of children and adults at risk. There is a gap in sufficient training for multi-agency professionals to recognise, report and refer cases and I hope that the necessary funding for learning materials will be provided to support this welcomed change to practice.”

The Home Office has rolled out corresponding initiatives across government sectors and offers outreach support to local areas.

Through its e-learning package, Recognising and preventing FGM it hopes to train and educate any professional who may come across cases of FGM.

The department’s FGM Unit supplies training workshops for local safeguarding children’s boards in high-prevalence FGM areas, roadshows to educate people on the issue and stimulate conversations on how to prevent FGM and offers bespoke peer support to local areas who want to strengthen their ability to combat FGM.                                              

UK Government Consultation – https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/introducing-mandatory-reporting-for-fgm

Female Genital Mutilation – http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FFemale_genital_mutilation&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGoa0BbDiYz_QdehHD5nxkMKsPL6w

Multi Agency Guidelines on FGM – https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.gov.uk%2Fgovernment%2Fpublications%2Ffemale-genital-mutilation-guidelines&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNHVNGMZTUx4t8vt-TzdpUL879cYsw

Identifying different stages of FGM – https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/female-genital-mutilation

Recognising and Preventing FGM – http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fgmelearning.co.uk%2F&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNHxyePVvFSVB0eLddhCpXvdqGa6Dw