The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Secretary of State
2 Marsham Street
Date: 6th February 2015
I am writing to you about International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on 6th February. This year, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation is targeting the “Mobilization and Involvement of Health Personnel to Accelerate Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation”.
Firstly, I would like to commend the progress that the Government has made on countering FGM in the UK, alongside the tireless efforts of dedicated campaigners. However, to date, there have been no UK convictions for FGM. This indicates a pressing need for the UK Government to take further action in order to promote the safety of girls and young women.
The UK Government has recognised the importance of GPs and healthcare professionals in identifying those at risk, and providing essential support to women and girls. Evidence presented by survivors also consistently highlights the vital role that school and education professionals have in preventing FGM and supporting wider communities. Yet no measures have been introduced for mandatory training for GPs, healthcare professionals or education providers.
It is clear that a comprehensive and holistic multi-agency approach is needed to tackle FGM in the UK. This includes prevention via the enforcement of existing laws, and ensuring that strong support systems are in place for those at risk of FGM and FGM survivors.
I firmly believe that introducing mandatory FGM training as part of child protection training, will equip multi-agency professionals with the skills to recognise and report FGM, and gain a clear understanding of the sensitive social and cultural implications. I, therefore, call on the UK Government to implement mandatory training, as part of statutory child protection, as a matter of urgency.
Furthermore, the Home Affairs Select Committee report into FGM, recently recommended that Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education be made compulsory, and that children in high-prevalence areas are taught about FGM.
It is vital that young women and men are exposed to education designed to reduce gender-based violence, which is linked to work on gender equality and challenging gender stereotypes. Compulsory PSHE which includes FGM, would empower young women to break the taboos of FGM, reduce misunderstanding and provide them with framework within which to discuss their own fears and experiences of FGM.
I, therefore, support the recommendations made by the committee and urge the Government to introduce compulsory PSHE, which includes FGM and other forms of gender-based violence.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these matters.