Social workers shouldn’t fear ‘racist’ label when protecting girls from genital mutilation

Home Office opens consultation on new statutory multi-agency guidance for how to tackle female genital mutilation

Girl by window
Photo: Jeff Blackler/Rex (Picture posed by model)

Social workers should not let fears of being branded ‘racist’ or ‘discriminatory’ impact the protection they give to girls and women at risk of female genital mutilation.

That was the message from proposed statutory guidance on female genital mutilation put out for consultation by the Home Office this week.

“Female genital mutilation is not a matter that can be left to be decided by personal preference – it is illegal, extremely harmful and is child abuse,” the guidance stated.

The proposed guidance will build upon multi-agency practice guidelines originally published in 2011, and comes out in the same week that research estimated no area of England and Wales is free from the illegal practice.

Increase awareness

Social workers are given guidance on how to work with families where there is a future risk of female genital mutilation, and what steps to take when a girl is at immediate risk, or has undergone, the crime.

The Home Office hopes new statutory guidance will help increase awareness and improve good practice.

The guidance will give information on how to understand female genital mutilation, as well as the health and welfare consequences of it, the prevalence of it, how to identify risk factors, criminal law and professional responsibilities surrounding the crime.

The consultation closes on September 30.

See a breakdown of what social workers need to know about the law on female genital mutilation.

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2 Responses to Social workers shouldn’t fear ‘racist’ label when protecting girls from genital mutilation

  1. Jim Greer July 24, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    Very pleased to see this message going out. Also pleased that it is being put in a positive way which assumes that social workers want to deal with difficult issues and want support in doing so. This contrasts with the criminalisation approach taken in relation failure to deal with sexual abuse.

  2. Elaine July 30, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    I am SO glad to see this message going out. It is about time that the U.K. recognized that things things like this are happening behind closed doors, despite legislation having been passed that attempts to stop them.
    The point is that people from cultures which do not originate in the U.K. may have VERY different beliefs to our own; and these beliefs may include FGM. Unless we are aware of what beliefs people hold, we cannot be aware of what goes on within their culture. Laws alone cannot change this. Instead, we need to act primarily on our own awareness and understanding of ethnic minority groups and their practices. Then, we have to begin the slow task of educating future generations of these cultures, and changing their opinions as to certain cultural practices.
    Sometimes, beliefs can be VERY strong, despite evidence that they are harmful. Just look at some of our own beliefs (that are WRONG) – such as homophobia, or ageism. People can hold onto incorrect beliefs, and there are often many reasons for this… Ignorance, lack of education, a desire to “fit in”, fear, threats…
    We need to know in the U.K. just WHY certain practices are apparently SO important to some cultures, and what it is that will make these people go to extremes (e.g. sending kids abroad to undergo FGM) in order to retain the practices. We have to understand WHO is behind such beliefs – for instance Tribal Elders, Religious or Cultural Leaders, and so forth. We need to be aware of HOW these cultures make such practices continue, and how they hide the fact that they are occurring. We need to know WHY colludes in making such things take place – who does the FGM, who arranges it, and what methods are used to send the girls abroad for it.
    Legislation alone will NOT protect people from things that are, to some ethnic minorities, considered “cultural rites”. Only when those services that are involved in the protection of people, especially children, become more aware of what is going on and why it happens, can we in this country begin to make changes.
    “Racist” labels, at the end of the day, have NOTHING to do with it. They are merely a “smokescreen” thrown out by people why wish to hide things that go on in certain cultures but which may be considered abusive or unsafe. If we allow charges of “racism” to affect us, then we allow all debate about such controversial subjects as FGM to effectively be closed down by those who want to hide its ugly truth.
    There are certain things in life that people DO NOT like to talk about, or are afraid to admit to and to acknowledge. Often, these things are things that we REALLY DO need to acknowledge, confront, discuss… and SORT OUT, once and for all.