Britain's teachers, doctors must report FGM or risk being fired

by Magdalena Mis | @magdalenamis1 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 30 October 2015 15:58 GMT

A woman walks along the south bank of the Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament on a foggy morning in London September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

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An estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales are living with the effects of female genital mutilation

LONDON, Oct 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Teachers and doctors in England and Wales must report cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) to the police or risk losing their jobs under a new regulation that comes into force on Saturday.

Those discovering cases of FGM in girls under 18 have one month to report it, but are urged to make reports within a day.

Nurses, doctors, social workers and teachers who fail to do so will face disciplinary procedures or be referred to their professional regulator, and in some cases could be fired.

FGM involves the total or partial removal of the clitoris and external genitalia. In extreme cases the vaginal opening is sewn closed. It can cause serious physical and psychological problems and complications in childbirth.

An estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales are living with the effects of FGM, and an estimated 60,000 girls may be at risk of the ritual, according to a 2014 study.

It is practised by various ethnic minority communities in Britain such as Somalis, Eritreans, Sudanese and Egyptians.

"The duty is an important step forward in tackling this practice, and we believe that it will make sure professionals have the confidence to confront FGM," Karen Bradley, minister for preventing abuse and exploitation, said in a statement.

"We need to ensure that where a serious crime has been committed, the police are informed and can instigate an appropriate multi-agency response to protect girls and bring perpetrators to justice," she said.

The duty applies to all cases of FGM in girls under 18 either disclosed by the victim or seen by the professional.

Lawmakers hope that mandatory reporting of FGM will result in the better protection of girls, as well as securing prosecutions and discouraging potential perpetrators.

Janet Fyle, policy adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, said the regulation would help medical professionals who might have had reservations in reporting FGM because of cultural sensitivity.

"We haven't been good at reporting (FGM)," Fyle told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "If it's made a duty then we will have to do it."

FGM has been a criminal offence in Britain since 1985, but new legislation in 2003 introduced a maximum prison sentence of 14 years and made it an offence for British citizens to carry out or procure FGM abroad, even in countries where it is legal. (Reporting by Magdalena Mis; Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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