Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM, has been illegal since 1985 and was followed by the UK introduction of the Female Genital Mutilation Act.
Between 2013 and 2015, the Department of Health, along with other institutions, published five reports regarding the role of the healthcare professional in tackling the FGM problem, from which, a series of main points can be drawn.
Main Factors Regarding FGM
In light of the reports published in the 2010s, doctors should be aware that
- identifying those who have been subjected to FGM is vital to safeguarding the relatives of the woman in question, especially if she is pregnant with a female child;
- girls under 18 years of age should be referred to child services, or a safeguarding hub – in addition to the police;
- FGM should be appropriately treated as a form of child abuse;
- those presenting with FGM should be prompted to consent to disclosure, with consideration to disclose in the public interest even if consent is withheld;
- all FGM cases must be reported – in hospital, GP, and mental health trusts alike; and
- there is an obligation to be aware of the local and national reporting and treatment guidelines.
The GMC also advises doctors to weigh-up the harm of non-disclosure against disclosure, and whilst each case is considered on its own merit, the GMC generally favours disclosing incidents of FGM.
Above all else, doctors should
- seek further advice and support as soon as necessary,
- be aware of all guidelines and procedures,
- make sure that any teams in which they work are informed about FGM, and
- report every juvenile case to the police.