Written: July 2020
Although we wrote this article early on in the coronavirus pandemic, it might still be helpful for your family as things continue to develop.
Families across the country are feeling all sorts of pressure and stress during the pandemic. From being in lockdown, to not being able to access services they would usually, to not being able to travel to see loved ones who might be abroad.
Some might be experiencing other pressures and stress in the family home, especially if members of your family or community have been affected by or support the practice of female genital mutilation, or ‘FGM’.
FGM is the partial to total removal of a girls external genitalia, or any other injury to the female genitalia, and is illegal in the UK. You may have heard other words for FGM, such as female genital cutting, or perhaps it is referred to as something else in your community. FGM is child abuse, happens all over the world, and can impact a girl or woman’s physical and emotional health, both in the short and long term. For example, FGM can lead to long term health issues such as: severe pain, infections, difficulty urinating, difficulty in childbirth, anxiety, depression, amongst many other complications, some of which can be life threatening.
The pressure to perform FGM can be especially challenging if others in your family or community have already experienced it and throughout the pandemic you or someone in your household might be living with health issues related to FGM but haven’t been able to access the support they need. We want you to know that you don’t have to deal with this on your own - we are here to provide you with information and advice about the support available to you.
If you or a member of your family has been affected by FGM, there are ways you can get help. You can seek help and protection if you feel your daughter, or any other female member of your family or community, is at risk, as well as specialist health care support if you, or your daughter has already experienced it.
Here is some advice from the National FGM Centre to help your family:
Do you have a daughter who has experienced FGM but hasn't been able to access medical help and attention due to the pandemic?
We know that these are really worrying times for families, but we want you to know that professionals are still here for you, and the priority is to ensure your safety first and foremost. For any urgent medical advice, call 101, or 999 in emergencies.
Have you experienced pressure during lockdown from family or your community to perform FGM?
Dealing with family pressure can be very complicated, and speaking up about FGM can equally add additional stress and pressure onto your household; but there are specialist services out there you can access to help you through this and protect your daughter. You can call the NSPCC FGM Helpline on 0800 028 3550 to get some support over the phone.
Specific laws protect all girls and women from female genital mutilation in the UK. These laws provide protection both here in the UK and in the event you travel outside of the UK, when it is safe to do so. In particular, you can apply for an FGM Protection Order, a legal document issued by the family court to protect your daughter. To find out more about these laws, please click here.
To download a leaflet on FGM Protection Orders, please click here.
In emergencies, remember to call the police on 999.
Are you worried that a child might be at risk of FGM?
If you are concerned that a child might be at immediate risk of FGM, always call 999 - emergency services are still responding as usual during the pandemic.
If you are concerned that a child could be at non-immediate risk of FGM:
- You can call the NSPCC FGM Helpline on 0800 028 3550
- You can refer to your local authority children’s services
- You can apply for a protection order
Are you a parent that has experienced FGM and need support?
Women currently have virtual access to counselling and advocacy support via the NHS FGM support clinics. Online counselling is also available via the Dahlia Project.
Remember, Barnardo’s is here for your family, and you don’t have to deal with this alone. For any further support, you can self refer into See, Hear, Respond here.