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Health professionals to treat genital mutilation as child abuse

Female genital mutilation (FGM) should be treated as child abuse, and healthcare professionals should be much more aware of it, a report claims. 

The report, Tackling FGM in the UK, says frontline professionals, such as nurses and health visitors, should develop their knowledge of FGM to ensure prevention and prevention of people who have suffered it. 

Healthcare professionals should also know how to provide good quality care for girls and women who suffer complications of FGM. 

Published by several organisations, including the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives, the report aims to empower and support girls and women against what has been described as a “severe form of violence”. 

FGM, or female circumcision, is the act of cutting the female sex organs, and has been outlawed in the UK since 1985. 

Although an estimated 66,000 women have been affected by FGM in the UK, so far no cases have been brought. 

The royal colleges have called on the government to implement a national FGM awareness campaign, similar to previous domestic abuse and HIV campaigns. 

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison, who is hosting the report launch, said: “Female genital mutilation is illegal and we have to both safeguard girls from this form of child abuse and address the longer-term health needs of those girls and women living with FGM. 

“We are already working actively with the Health and Social Care Information Centre to look at how best the NHS could collect and share data and I am working hard, with colleagues across Government, to protect future generations of girls from this abhorrent practice.”

Royal College of Nursing's Director of Nursing Janet Davies said: “All health and social care professionals have a responsibility to do all they can to identify and prevent this abuse. This important guidance makes it clear that nurses, midwives and doctors must work with the police, teachers and social services when they have concerns.

“We know nursing and midwifery staff want to play their part in protecting these vulnerable girls and women, and when implemented these recommendations will be a step in the right direction.”

Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “Through working together closely with the police, health and social care professionals and the third sector, we are now in a much better place to have a successful prosecution against those who perpetrate this practice. 

“It is only a matter of time before this happens and this will send a very powerful message that FGM is a crime that will not be tolerated.”