New scoping study sets out a way forward for tackling female genital mutilation (FGM) in Scotland

Nina Murray is Women’s Policy Officer at Scottish Refugee Council and author of the FGM report. Our launch issue featured articles on FGM in Scotland by Niki Kandirikirira and John Fotheringham.

Nina MurrayOn 17 December at a packed event in Glasgow, Scottish Refugee Council launched the first major piece of research on female genital mutilation (FGM) in Scotland, Tackling female genital mutilation in Scotland: a Scottish model of intervention.

The launch was attended by a wide range of statutory, voluntary and community representatives from Fife to Forth Valley, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. We were delighted to be joined for the event by Sanaa Alsabag of Waverley Care as Chair, and the inspiring Fatou Baldeh of Dignity Alert Research Forum (DARF), who drew on her own experience and expertise to bring a touch of humanity to this complex and emotive subject. We also welcomed Alex Neil MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice and Communities, to respond to our research, affirming that the Scottish Government welcomed the report and would work closely with stakeholders and communities in Scotland affected by FGM to deliver an appropriate Scottish response.

The research, which was supported by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and funded by the Scottish Government and Rosa Fund, draws on 2011 census and other available data on country of birth to identify populations across Scotland potentially affected by female genital mutilation. It also sets out a number of recommendations for prevention and response interventions in a Scottish context based on the findings from a literature review and expert interviews on effective FGM interventions in the European Union.

The key findings are the need for:

  • A strategic framework
  • National guidance
  • A hub and spoke specialist service and
  • Community participation.

The issue of female genital mutilation encompasses a range of policy areas, including criminal justice, health, asylum, and child protection. Our research highlights the need for an overarching strategic framework to guide agencies and services in their response. It identifies a lack of national guidance for frontline professionals, including GPs, midwives, teachers and children’s services and calls for the establishment of a specialist, multi-disciplinary ‘hub and spoke’ FGM service in Scotland with links to ‘spoke’ services across Scotland’s regions where potentially affected communities have been identified.

A key finding of our research was the critical need for participation by communities affected by FGM at the earliest stages of the development of a strategic framework incorporating prevention and protection, service provision, policy, legislation and engagement with professionals and communities, and the need for sustainable investment in community development to support behaviour change from within affected communities.

A Scottish response should encompass all of these areas and sit within the framework of Equally Safe, Scotland’s strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls. Any work in this area must recognise that FGM is a form of gender-based violence, and that it is closely linked to other forms of violence against women and girls, most notably forced marriage. A gendered approach to tackling and responding to FGM will support affected communities to address the root causes of this devastating practice affecting the lives, families and communities of millions of women and girls worldwide.

Posted in FGM, health and justice