Facts and figures
The UK has a long history of migration from African and other countries affected by FGM. Data from the Office of National Statistics (2015) based on the 2011 census indicate that FGM-affected communities in London originated from 29 (mainly African) countries, including Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan. The Government Equalities Office (2009) also identified significant numbers from other FGM-affected countries, such as India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kurdistan and Yemen.
Over the past five years, the UK’s policy and legislative frameworks on FGM have been significantly strengthened, including cross-government action by the Home Office, Department for Education, Ministry of Justice and Department of Health. However, despite over 30 years of anti-FGM legislation, there has yet to be a successful prosecution of FGM in the UK.
While the UK does not have a specific national action plan on FGM, there have been efforts to address the practice within overarching strategies on violence against women and girls, and through the development of a government structure to coordinate work on FGM, based in the Home Office.
Recent efforts to intensify work to end FGM have resulted in greater media attention, spurred by high-profile campaigners. At the same time, local-government authorities, statutory agencies, the police and professional bodies have all developed FGM intervention strategies. The role of community organisations in tackling FGM has also become more visible, as a result of the six-year Female Genital Mutilation Initiative, which has funded the activities of over 50 community and civil society organisations.
According to research published in 2007 (Dorkenoo, Morison & Macfarlane), there were nearly 66,000 FGM-affected women and girls living in the UK. A subsequent study by City University and Equality Now (2014), found the number of FGM-affected individuals living in England and Wales had risen to an estimated 137,000, with 144,000 girls born to mothers from FGM-affected countries between 1996 and 2010, including 60,000 under-15s deemed to be potentially at risk.
However, both of these studies were based on census data and thus do not take account of whether a girl/woman was born in a country other than parents’ countries of origin, nor the under-reporting of undocumented migrants. More importantly, census figures do not take account of migration flows into the UK since 2011. In addition, country-of-origin prevalence data based on DHS figures may no longer be relevant in the UK context, as they may not reflect changes in behaviour due to migration.
Health and police records on FGM
Health: In 2014, the UK government introduced mandatory recording of FGM cases in all acute hospital trusts, requiring National Health Service (NHS) staff to record evidence of FGM in a patient’s clinical record when identified in the normal course of duties. Enhanced dataset mandatory recording, introduced by the Department of Health in April 2015, increased the detail of individual-level data collected and applies to all acute trusts in England, including mental health trusts, GP practices and community services within mental health trusts.
According to annual data released by the Department of Health in 2016 (for the period April 2015 to March 2016), there were 8,656 total attendances where FGM was identified or a procedure for FGM was undertaken. Of these, 5,702 were newly recorded cases. In terms of the types of FGM recorded, the majority were classified as ‘type unknown’ (3,039 cases), followed by type 1 (893), type 2 (789) and type 3 (573). Type 4 and ‘not recorded’ accounted for 136 and 135 cases, respectively.
The majority of newly recorded cases (just over 3,500) did not have their country of birth recoded. Of those whose country of birth was recorded, the largest number came from East Africa (nearly 2,000). The same pattern is repeated in response to the question asking country in which FGM was performed i.e. that the largest numbers came from East Africa. Although, a significant number (n=4,467) did not have that data recorded.
Of particular concern are the 106 girls subjected to FGM under the age of 18, as well as five girls reported to have been subjected to FGM (excluding genital piercings) in the UK.
There are two main caveats regarding the data presented above. First, the data set includes a significant number of non-responses (unknowns, not recorded). Second, the small number of cases may have required the exclusion of some details in order to protect the identity of the woman or girl concerned. Nevertheless, the data set provides a useful starting point in gathering information on the needs of affected women and girls.
Protection Orders: With regard to newly legislated FGM protection orders, the Family Court Statistics Quarterly indicates that from October to December 2015, 47 applications for FGM protection orders were made to UK courts, of which 32 were granted.