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FGM survivors ‘need more access to specialist health services’

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Many FGM survivors in the UK are not getting the specialist healthcare they need, according to the Royal College of Midwives, which has called for action to improve support.

The call comes as organisations and communities across the globe mark International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation taking place today.

“We know many survivors are still unable to access the specialist healthcare services they require”

Janet Fyle

In the UK more than 24,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of FGM and in England and Wales alone there are more than 137,000 women and girls living with the physical and psychological consequences of FGM.

While much progress has been made in tackling FGM here and in other countries, the RCM said more work was needed to achieve a goal of halting FGM altogether by 2030.

“No local authority area in England and Wales is untouched by FGM,” said RCM professional policy advisor Janet Fyle.

“Many girls and women here in the UK continue to be at risk of female genital mutilation and while we have made some progress in tackling FGM, there is more that we need to do,” she said.

This included more work to raise awareness of the negative impact of FGM on women’s lives, the fact the practice is illegal and the consequences of carrying out FGM.

Last week, a mother was found guilty of FGM – the first ever successful conviction in the UK.

“This prosecution was significant as it sends out a very clear message of zero tolerance, that those who engage in the practice of FGM or those who are concealing this crime will be held accountable and brought to justice,” said Ms Fyle.

She highlighted the key role of professionals, including midwives and nurses in helping to protect girls from FGM, and said it was vital safeguarding systems were understood by all those who work or interact with women and children – especially those in health, social care and education.

“It’s imperative that we all remain vigilant and ask members of the various communities to work alongside professionals and report if they suspect that a child is at risk of FGM, which is child abuse,” she said.

Royal College of Midwives

Janet Fyle

Janet Fyle

Ms Fyle also highlighted the need to improve support services for girls and women affected by FGM.

“We know many survivors are still unable to access the specialist healthcare services they require and deserve,” she said.

She added: “The RCM is urging the government to ensure that accessible specialist health and psychological care and support service are made available in the community for survivors.”

As part of today’s Zero Tolerance day activities, the RCM and anti-FGM campaign group The Vavengers are hosting an event in London to bring together healthcare workers, activists and organisations working to end FGM.

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