Introduction to Female Genital Mutilation
Female Genital Mutilation also known as FGM that is a ritual by which there is a removal of female genital organs. The reason behind carrying out this process is a belief that it helps to control the sexuality of females (Ellison, 2013). The practice is quite traditional and has got the African roots. It can further be considered as a very cruel act which is carried out by the parents as well as extended family members who themselves are responsible for taking care of the girl.
It is very essential to protect the children from same as the girls that are undergoing with this process have to face severe pain, creation of many disabilities and infections. In some cases, it has also resulted in death of girls and causing psychological harm to millions of women every year who are in living state and have undergone with the process (Female genital mutilation/cutting, 2015). Moreover, the very concept of Female Genital Mutilation is a violation of rights of a girl child and her right to bodily integrity. The practice is against the law but is still being carried out in many African nations. In UK itself, there is an estimated 1, 00, 000 victims of FGM (Elvin, 2014). It has been estimated that around 66000 women living in England and Wales during 2001 has underwent the process of FGM (Tackling FGM in the UK, 2015). Despite of this fact, local authorities have undertaken very few section investigations on allegations against practice of FGM. Social worker in this area is required so as to increase awareness of the masses towards the ongoing practice of FGM in many nations including UK. The importance of social workers is crucial as the problem has got social roots and its eradication requires a change in society.
Hence, the current study is trying to give a due emphasis on the issues that surround protection of children from female genital mutilation. This will aid in giving recommendations to the social workers as to what necessary steps can be taken in this direction.
Aims and objectives
The selected aim for the study is “To assess the Issues surrounding the protection of children from female genital mutilation”. The objectives taken for the same is as follows:
- To assess the concept of Female genital mutilation and its widespread nature.
- To assess the legal issues that has led to non protection of children from in female genital mutilation UK.
- To assess the cultural issues surrounding the practice and protection of children from female genital mutilation
- To assess the work done by social workers in the area of FGM
- To provide recommendations for social workers for protecting girl child from the practice of female genital mutilation.
Structure of dissertation
The dissertation will begin with the introduction chapter so as to get an idea about background statement that is followed by aims and objectives of the study. It will then move towards the main body of dissertation where arguments will be presented. This section will constitute an evidence so as to support the claims/arguments. This will be done in a sequential manner. The dissertation will then end with conclusion section so as to draw out the implications without introducing any new material. Recommendations will be presented on the way in which improvements can be made on protecting children from the practice of FGM followed by describing a clear course of action to be taken.
Significance of study
The present dissertation is significant as it will raise awareness about the issues of FGM and protection of girl child on part of social care workers. An integral part of the responsibilities of social care workers is to work with people and support them through difficulties. The issue of female genital mutilation is a growing concern (Momoh, 2005). Apart from providing relief and support to the females who have gone through the painful act, there is a need to provide protection and security to those who are at risk of FGM. The present study will provide information about the ways in which issues related to protection of children from FGM can be dealt with. This is of great significance for the social workers who are working in this area.
Concept of Female genital mutilation and its widespread nature
Female genital mutilation is a collective term in which a range of practices are included that involve removing parts of a healthy female genitalia. This is done for non therapeutic reasons. There are a variety of cultural groups in UK which practice different degrees of mutilation (Ball, 2008). Excision and clitorecdectomy are the two most common types of mutilation. World Health Organization (WHO) has classified female genital mutilation into four types. The first type involves clitorecdectomy while the second type of FGM consists of partial or total removal of clitoris and labia minora. In type 3 FGM, narrowing of vaginal orifice is carried out. Lastly, type 4 includes all the harmful procedures that are done to female genitalia for non medical purposes. This consists of cauterization, scraping and incising.
It is estimated that a total of 100 to 140 million females have undergone genital mutilation world wide. Approximately 3 million girls are undergoing this harmful practice each year. FGM is prevalent in a total of 28 African countries (Female Genital Mutilation: Caring for patients and safeguarding children, 2011). The prevalence rates of FGM are the highest, 90 per cent, in Egypt, Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan. It is also found in Europe among those communities that originate from these parts of the world. In Britain, there are some ethnic groups which practice female genital mutilation. These are those that have migrated to this country. While majority of these groups are refugees, some have migrated from Egypt, Ethopia, Iraq, Kurdistan, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Sudan.
While developing an understanding of this concept, it is important to discuss the risks related to this practice. Mutilation exposes females to immediate risks that include severe pain, tetanus, septicimea, haemorrhage and even death (Banks and et.al., 2006). As these procedures are carried out by traditional circumcisers in unsterile conditions without anesthesia, the consequences become worsened. In long term, problems are experienced by girls and women with their sexual, reproductive as well as general health. They also become prone to urinary tract and pelvic infections. FGM leaves women infertile. Even if they do conceive, several difficulties are experienced by women due to scarred birth canal. As a result of this, risk of still birth increases sue to internal tearing. All this exposes the females to maternal death. Moreover, the girls and women who undergo FGM become more prone to cyst formation (Bewley, Creighton and Momoh, 2010). Apart from the that, several unintended cuts and incisions are caused into urethra and rectum when girls struggle during the procedure, thus leading to fistulas.
Legal issue in protection of children from female genital mutilation
Protection of any specific group against any form of abuse calls for undertaking of legal action. Same applies to the case of female genital mutilation as well. However, it seems clear that not much has been done by UK government to curb this issue. This has been in spite of the fact that there have been around 1 lakh victims of FGM in UK itself. The main argument given by authorities is that FGM does not fit properly into the child protection system of UK. This is due to the reactive nature of system that relies on referred cases in comparison to identifying the children who are at the risk of undergoing FGM procedure (Female Genital Mutilation in the UK, 2015). This is as the referrals about female genital mutilation are not coming from agencies as they are not aware about the current happenings. Victims rarely disclose about the incident. Moreover, the perpetrators are family members (Lee, 2008).
Things are however taking a change on account of a press and political interest on the absence of prosecution under UK legislation. There has been presence of two ministerial round tables that involved Health, International Development and educational department, Home Office and Crown Prosecution Service for tackling the issue. But it is also a known fact that inspite of the presence of increasing interest, very few cases have been taken by local authorities involving allegations against female genital mutilation (Kontoyannis and Katsetos, 2010).
A campaign has recently been funded by the home office so as to raise awareness of a national helpline for FGM which is being run by NSPCC. It has received around 200 calls since June 2013 (Elvin, 2014). Many of the calls are about professionals that seek for the information in comparison to ones that are referring a case. This area has clearly highlighted towards lack of potential referrals. All these instances clear suggests that social care workers are in a need of new referral pathway so as to identify as well as protect victims.
There has been a presence of other legal laws so as to protect the girl child from FGM. One such is recognizing FGM as a means of child abuse in the year 1989. Government further published some guidelines in 1999 showing as to how the law may work. This definitely provided the route to prosecute the perpetrators. However, the law has still not been backed by robust guidelines from medical bodies such as RCGP, RCOG, RCP or the AMRC (Ellison, 2013). It has further failed to produce a set of policies and procedures that are require to be followed by local authorities.
The matter to resolve FGM has further been compounded with the existing Population demographics and resource issues. There has been a massive influx of refugees and asylum seekers. This clearly shows that people can no longer be provided housing in urban communities where means are undertaken to protect girls from FGM (Elmusharaf, Elhadi and Almroth, 2006). Moreover, there is further a presence of a limited financial aid from health department thereby making it difficult for authorities to decide a to whether the money should be spent on educating the girls to refuse FGM or to carry out reverse operation on the children that have already been infibulated (Dustin and Phillips, 2008).The researchers are further of the view point that UK authorities have made effort to reduce FGM by punitive legislation but have not focused on bringing a change in there attitude as well as creating alternative ways to affirm the cultural identity.
The issue related to human behavior
Female genital mutilation is fund to be an established tradition in many countries. Though a form of abuse, members of communities in which FGM is practiced, perform it with good intentions. They consider it to be as future welfare for the child. They do not consider it as an act of abuse. There is a need to change this behavior of people regarding FGM (Utz-Billing and Kentenich, 2008). However, it can be critically analyzed that it is difficult to change human behavior. It has been centuries that the practice of FGM has existed. It is practiced due to the ingrained behavior of people of certain communities. It can be argued that these people support FGM due to their own reasons. These reasons give rise to such behavior. Prime reason due to which FGM is done is to preserve virginity. People have a tendency to practice mutilation because they have belief that it preserves the honor of family. They also consider that FGM promotes chastity (Ellison, 2013). It can be analyzed that the females can preserve their virginity for the wedding night. However, it can be critically evaluated that preserving virginity for the wedding night through FGM suggests that there will be use of a razor or knife for cutting the vaginal orifice. It is required in the situation when vaginal orifice is too small for forceful penetration. This has serious physical and mental consequences for the females. It exposes them to the risk of infection as most of these procedures are not performed in a sterile manner.
But, there are many nations in which family honor is closely linked to virginity. It is believed by Somali families that the honor of their family lies in the preserved virginity of their women. It is because of this reason that these people have a tendency to practice FGM. They consider it as a way of bringing to heel female (Leye and et.al., 2007.). Through this, their family honor is believed to be preserved. Hence, female genital mutilation is a traditional practice. But, with time, people have become educated and make informed decisions. Raised awareness towards FGM encourages them to oppose this harmful practice. However, it can be critically evaluated that it is a human tendency to follow the traditions blindly. People still follow the traditions that have continued for years no matter how insane or useless they are. This tendency creates issues in protection of children from female genital mutilation.
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