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At its annual conference in Gateshead, family law organisation Resolution has published a new screening toolkit on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in response to new laws designed to protect victims of FGM, so that members are better equipped to identify and support vulnerable girls and women.
Despite FGM being a criminal offence in the UK since 1985, it’s believed there are up to 23,000 girls under 15 at risk of FGM in England and Wales, and nearly 60,000 women potentially living with the consequences of FGM.
The Resolution toolkit aims to support family lawyers in raising the issue of FGM with their clients. It tells its members a ‘potential victim may only have one chance to ask for help’ and identifies key questions and issues to discuss in order to help victims access the dedicated support services available.
Speaking at the Resolution National Conference, the organisation’s new chair, Nigel Shepherd, said:
'Resolution members can play an important role in supporting victims of FGM. This toolkit is a valuable addition to the many resources we make available to our members to support them across a range of issues of concern to their clients, including guidance on how to help victims of abuse and forced marriage.'
Cris McCurley, from Resolution’s Domestic Abuse Committee, who produced the toolkit, said:
'Sadly there are still thousands of women and girls in the UK who are at risk of FGM. Family lawyers can often be the only person FGM victims feel able to discuss their injuries with.
In my experience, you never know when a disclosure of FGM might happen, so the toolkit is something I’d urge all family practitioners to have to hand, whether or not they consider themselves people who deal with issues around FGM.
We may only have one chance to help so it’s vital that we’re prepared and I’m delighted that Resolution is supporting our members to do so with the publication of this toolkit.'
FGM is usually arranged through the woman or girl’s parents or extended family. Some of the reasons given for the continued practice of FGM include the protection of family honour, preservation of tradition, ensuring a woman’s chastity, cleanliness and as a preparation for marriage.
According to the Home Office, the UK communities that are most at risk of FGM include Kenyan, Somali, Sudanese, Sierra Leonean, Egyptian, Nigerian and Eritrean. Non-African communities that practise FGM include Yemeni, Afghani, Kurdish, Indonesian and Pakistani.The FGM Toolkit is available to download here.