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What is female genital mutilation?
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
It has been illegal in Scotland since 1985 and is considered a form of violence against women and girls and a violation of their human rights internationally.
It is a cultural practice that is particularly common amongst the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, and in some countries in Asia and the Middle East.
Whilst there are many women and girls who originate from these countries currently living in Scotland, it is important to acknowledge that not all girls and women from 'practising communities' are at risk of FGM.
What is Scotland's national action plan to prevent and eradicate FGM?
Scotland’s National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) outlines its purpose as fostering an environment of prevention in Scotland whilst supporting those who are FGM survivors.
It aligns with the overarching priorities of
Equally Safe, Scotland’s strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls.
It has a key focus on working within communities to change practices and attitudes, and works closely with partners to recognise its aims of both prevention and support.
How to use this learning and assessment resource to improve practice
All school and early years establishments are supported to evaluate and improve their practice in relation to safeguarding and child protection, including female genital mutilation, through
How good is our school? 4 and
How good is our early learning and childcare?
As part of this self-evaluation process, schools and early learning and childcare settings should familiarise themselves with all forms of abuse including FGM and take account of the risk factors around these practices.
Education practitioners should also work with key community partners and agencies to understand this complex issue and to develop confidence in responding to any concerns they have.
FGM Aware website provides schools with resources and information to help tackle FGM in Scotland. It has useful videos which can be used to highlight the issues for school practitioners.
Edinburgh and Lothians guidance provides one example of a multiagency approach to tackling and supporting FGM.
In 2017, the Scottish Government published FGM: Responding to Female Genital Mutilation in Scotland: Multi-Agency Guidance. This framework supports agencies and practitioners to develop and agree processes for working collaboratively and individually to promote the safety and wellbeing of women and girls.
Practitioners in schools and early learning and childcare should ask themselves the following questions:
- Do we have robust safeguarding and child protection procedures in place which take account of female genital mutilation?
- To what extent are staff aware of female genital mutilation? Can they recognise the risk factors associated with it?
- How well do we as a school community work with our partners in the wider community to identify risk, prevent harmful practices such as FGM and support those who have already been affected by it?