As a result of the Met’s Project Violet team working closely with communities, the voluntary sector and professionals to tackle child abuse involving cultural issues, the team have identified that this time of year is the most likely for communities who practise FGM to either send their daughter to their country of origin where FGM will be undertaken to administer it in the UK in the early part of the summer holidays, to ensure the lengthy recovery period takes place over the school break.
To prevent further children and young women being victimised in these ways, the Project Violet team and partners in the community are working to inform parents and carers that the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 makes it illegal to participate in any sort of arrangement for FGM to be performed on another, either inside or outside the UK. Those who are involved in any way – be it aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring or carrying out FGM inside or outside the UK can face 14 years imprisonment.
Female Genital Mutilation, sometimes misleadingly referred to as female circumcision, involves the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reason. It has very severe consequences both psychological and emotional and the medical consequences include extreme pain, shock, infection, haemorrhage, infertility, incontinence, HIV and death.
The procedure can be conducted in a number of ways including the removal of the clitoris and/or the labia, cauterisation or burning of the clitoris and the removal of all external genitalia and the stitching up of the vaginal
opening leaving an opening the size of a matchstick head.
In most cases, the procedure is traditionally carried out by an older woman within the community who has no medical training. Anaesthetics and antiseptic treatment are not generally used and the practice is usually
carried out using basic tools such as knives, scissors, tin can lids, scalpels, pieces of glass and razor blades and often only iodine and herbs are used to stop the bleeding.
The majority of cases of FGM are carried out, or originate, in communities from 28 African countries. In some countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan, prevalence rates are alleged to be as high as 98% and in other countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Togo and Senegal, the prevalence rates vary between 20%-50%. FGM also takes place in parts of the Arabian Peninsula such as Yemen and Oman and by the Ethiopian Jewish Falashas, some of whom have recently settled in Israel. It is also reported that FGM is practised among Muslim populations in parts of Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Detective Superintendent Chris Bourlet, Head of Project Violet said: “Project Violet aims to support communities where cultural beliefs can lead to the abuse of children. We’re keen to build awareness of the issues to develop a better understanding with communities and professionals on this sensitive issue, however the act of FGM is a crime and where appropriate the police will enforce the law. The solutions to this issue lie with the community and we are pleased to support the work being undertaken by
organisations such as AFRUCA and FORWARD and other similar organisations.”
Detective Inspector Carol Hamilton of the Met’s Child Abuse Command said:”Female genital mutilation is a clear violation of human rights and is child abuse. FGM is a cultural practice which has no basis in any religion and anyone involved in facilitating this crime whether inside or outside the UK can face a lengthy prison sentence.”
Project Violet are particularly interested in hearing from healthcare officials who have come across victims of FGM, regardless of whether this has come to their attention through a related or unrelated medical condition and whether the victim is an adult or a child. They should contact the Project Violet Team on 020 7230 8324.
Anyone who has information regarding those involved in arranging FGM should contact their local police station or, if they wish to remain anonymous, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
If anyone wishes to seek confidential help and advice around FGM they should contact FORWARD (Foundation for Women’s Health, Research & Development) on 020 8960 4000 or AFRUCA (Africans United Against Child Abuse) on 020 7704 2261 or Jenny Bourne, a nurse specialising in FGM providing a confidential service to survivors on 020 8928 2238 or 020 8928 2243.