TW: Female Genital Mutilation.
Approximately 10 victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are reported to have been seen by NHS Services in Southampton between January and March 2020. The National FGM Centre have warned that young women may be further at risk for FGM during the novel Coronavirus Pandemic as it reduces the women’s contact to teachers and health care professionals that may otherwise look out for signs.
FGM is a procedure in which parts of the genitals are removed, damaged or changed without medical reasoning, causing severe health issues for the victims. FGM is illegal in the UK under child abuse laws with a maximum penalty of 14 years of imprisonment. While most victims are cut before the age of 15, many do not get seen until they are much older, often when pregnant. All victims seen in Southampton were over 18 years old.
The NHS states that clues may include victims talking about an upcoming ‘procedure‘ or ‘becoming a woman‘. Family members may also provide clues in saying that they will be taking the child out of the country for a while. FGM is mainly carried out in African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries, with many UK victims being flown out to said places in order for the procedure to be completed. Naana Otoo-Oyortey from The Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development have stated that the impact of Covid-19 on Black and ethnic minority families have been ‘extremely challenging‘ and that this may have contributed to the influx of FGM victims.
As children are out of school and health care visits are decreasing, Covid-19 has made it more challenging to spot clues that someone is or is about to become a victim of FGM. Leethen Bartholomew, the head of the National FGM Centre stated that:
While children and young proffesionals are at home, they are not linked to professionals and there are no services in contact with them – if there is a concern we wouldn’t know. They don’t have those opportunities to hear concerns and respond to disclosure.
FGM causes severe health issues for most victims both physically and mentally. If you are concerned that someone might be at risk for FGM you can call 0800 028 3550 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.