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First in-depth study into effects of female genital mutilation

Dr Tamsin Bradley

The first study in the UK to collect in-depth data on the prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) and its effects on young girls and women, is being conducted by the University of Portsmouth.

The research will identify if girls in Portsmouth and Southampton are vulnerable to FGM and will explore the impact of this practice on the lives of women who have undergone the procedure.

Sometimes called female circumcision, FGM involves the removal by force of all or part of the clitoris and closure of the vagina, to ensure the virginity of young girls in preparation for marriage.

The findings will be used to generate policy and intervention recommendations and to help develop the current training on FGM for key professionals in Hampshire including the police, council, midwifery service and NGOs.

It is believed that in Hampshire, Sudanese and Somalian communities are two diaspora groups particularly affected by the practice, but it is also prevalent in many more.

Dr Tamsin Bradley from the University of Portsmouth will be working in partnership with Claire Chatwin, Managing Director of Southern Domestic Abuse Service (SDAS), and the African Women’s Forum Portsmouth to research the problem, which although shrouded in secrecy, is a growing concern.

Dr Bradley said: “This study is the first of its kind to dig deeply into how FGM is manifesting itself in different diaspora communities. We know it’s a problem in Hampshire but the ways in which it is practised differ from community to community. This new study will use qualitative research methods to really produce an accurate and sensitive picture of how FGM impacts on the lives of girls and women.

“There is shocking ignorance about female genital mutilation in the UK which is why we need to gather this vital data. FGM has been a cultural practice for generations in certain countries and is associated with family honour, but it is a form of child abuse which needs to be eradicated.

“We believe that FGM is a growing problem in Hampshire but awareness is very low. It is quite frightening to suspect that the practice is on the rise but very little is being done. The procedure is both physically and psychologically damaging to young girls who can be as young as six when it takes place.

“Our study aims to shine a light on an under-researched cultural practice which is causing suffering and pain. We need to challenge the normalisation of FGM and give women from ethnic minority communities a voice.”

The project is being funded by the Rosa Trust, a charitable fund set up to support initiatives that benefit women and girls in the UK.

In the UK the most recent figures suggest that over 24,000 girls and women are at high risk or may have already undergone FGM.

Claire Chatwin from SDAS said: “We are delighted to have secured funding from the Rosa Trust’s FGM Small Grants Programme.  We are dedicated to advancing and safeguarding the sexual and reproductive rights and dignity of girls and women.

“This research will equip us with data that will inform and influence local policy making and the provision of services that meet the specific needs of girls and women that have experienced or are at risk of FGM.  Southern Domestic Abuse Service is pleased to be working in partnership with African Women’s Forum and the University of Portsmouth on this important and innovative project.”

Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth, Sandi Toksvig, is an ambassador for the Rosa Trust.

She said: “It was in Sudan that I began to understand the true nation of FGM. It’s an inhumane practice which continues to blight the lives of millions so I am proud that the University is working in partnership with Rosa, Southern Domestic Abuse Service and the African Women’s Forum to expose the practice and protect girls from being mutilated.”

1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. I learnt about this deplorable practice from Margaret, my second wife in 1964. I presume that she had been taught it at school. Over 50 years later we do not appear to have made much progress against this terrible tradition, which must damage so many lives.

    This is useful information from the U K Government:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/482799/6_1587_HO_MT_Updates_to_the_FGM_The_Facts_WEB.pdf

    and some Q&A from the United Nations:

    http://www.unfpa.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-fgm-frequently-asked-questions#whatisfgm

    Has your research reached any conclusions yet?

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