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Teachers warned about signs of FGM as Christmas holidays approach

Release Date: 01 Jan 2018

Teachers and other professionals are being advised to look out for the signs a girl may be at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) during the festive period.

The warning from the National FGM Centre, which is run by Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association, comes as British girls could be flown abroad to unwittingly undergo the procedure during the school holidays.

Any teacher who suspects a pupil is going overseas for this purpose should follow normal safeguarding procedures.

But these professionals can only help protect children by knowing what to look out for.

Some indications may come from the child. She might:

  • Begin to tell her friends about FGM
  • Talk about looking forward to a long holiday to a country where the practice is prevalent.
  • Confide she is going to have a ‘special procedure’, or attend a special occasion to ‘become a woman’.
  • Approach a teacher or another adult if she’s aware or suspects she’s at immediate risk.

This is as recently published figures show that we still have a long way to go before new cases are stopped.

There were 1,060 newly recorded cases of female genital mutilation between July and September 2017, according to the NHS Digital statistics.

Of these, 83% happened before the girl had reached her 10th birthday and 20% took place before she had turned one.

In all, there were 2,205 attendances reported at NHS trusts and GP practices where FGM was identified or a medical procedure for the practice was undertaken – these attendances involved 1,760 individual women and girls.

The child’s parents may unwittingly give the following clues:

  • Say they are taking their child out of the country for a prolonged period of time.
  • Talk about looking forward to going on holiday to a country where her relatives live and where the practice is prevalent.
  • Mention they are going to a country with a high prevalence of FGM, especially during holiday periods.
  • Ask permission to take their daughter out of school during term time.

The National FGM Centre, run by Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association, trains professionals to spot the signs which may suggest girls have had FGM.

These include difficulty in walking or sitting down comfortably, taking a long time in the toilet, or a significant change in behaviour such as becoming withdrawn.

Director of the National FGM Centre, Michelle Lee-Izu said:

FGM is child abuse and no girl should ever have to live with the harmful physical and emotional consequences of this terrible practice.

We believe the best way of preventing the practice is by working with girls and their families, raising awareness in schools and communities and training professionals like teachers and social workers to spot girls at risk of FGM and know how to report it.

We hope our reminder of the signs will help not just teachers but all agencies to prevent FGM from happening by identifying girls at risk and helping to prosecute those who fail to protect girls from this type of abuse.

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