RCM event asks ‘where next’ for FGM

By Hollie Ewers on 25 May 2018 FGM - Female Genital Mutilation

The RCM held a panel discussion event last night (24 May) to look at the progress made on its campaign to end FGM by 2030. 

The discussion, chaired by ITV news correspondent Ronke Phillips, included a panel of FGM survivors and campaigners, a barrister and a MET police inspector.

The event discussed what else the campaign and campaigners need to do to end FGM; specifically how best to support survivors of FGM and protect girls at risk of the practice. 

It also explored why there has not been a successful prosecution to date and along with audience participation, ideas and suggestions were made for how to develop a coherent message on what UK governments need to do to end FGM.

One of the discussants, Leyla Hussein, a psychotherapist specialising in supporting survivors of FGM and sexual abuse, said that for a very long time lots of progress has been made, but it is now getting harder and is a real fight to protect the achievements already made and for what still needs to happen.

She said: ‘I am angry because we are still fighting to stop this child abuse, and I will continue to be angry until every girl is safe. We also shouldn’t have to beg for vital services like counselling and psychotherapy. 

'We have to all work together to end FGM and I believe it can happen. We just have to build on our past progress and we have to target the women in the communities because they are the protectors of the next generations.’

A member of the audience, a survivor herself, told how she refused to have her daughter cut, echoing Leyla’s last point. She added that until the message that FGM is child abuse reaches the heart of the communities that practice it, there would be little change.

At the end of the debate key points were summed up on what could be done next to end FGM. The suggestions included more academic research to drive further changes in the law, addressing the backlash that arises from prosecutions, a need to keep FGM in the media, a focus on human rights and the fact that the practice is illegal, and making FGM part of the curriculum for all medical students.

RCM professional policy advisor Janet Fyle, who organised the event, said: ‘While we have made some progress in the UK, there is much more to do. I simply do not think this is a priority among those who are charge with implementing policies to end FGM and that is worrying.’

She added that she believes the law has not served survivors of FGM well: ‘there have been prosecutions recently that in our view has made it even more difficult for young girls and women in this country to come forward to report that something bad happened to them,’ Janet said.

In 2013, the intercollegiate group of medical royal colleges, the CPHVA activists and FGM survivors developed a ground-breaking initiative which looked at how best health, education, social care systems and the police could work together to protect girls at risk of FGM. This resulted in the publication of the intercollegiate recommendations for identifying, recording and reporting FGM available here.

More information about the RCM’s campaigning work to stop violence against women and girls is available here