The 2016-20 UK government strategy on ending violence against women and girls reiterates the position that FGM is an unacceptable form of abuse and violence against girls and women, and the government’s commitment to preventing FGM. The strategy states that real, sustainable progress to end FGM will depend on cooperation between national and local government, agencies, partners and communities, to prevent women and girls becoming victims in the first place.
The strategy outlines key actions required to achieve expected outcomes by 2020, including a reduction in the prevalence of all forms of violence against women and girls; increased reporting, police referrals, prosecution and convictions; earlier intervention and prevention; and ensuring that affected women and children receive appropriate support.
A number of statutory agencies with child protection responsibilities have produced guidance/policy documents and position papers for use by members responding to FGM, including local Children’s Safeguarding Boards and the Royal Colleges of nurses, midwives, paediatricians, general practitioners and obstetricians and gynaecologists, in addition to guidance provided by the Department of Health. The government produced the Multi-agency Statutory Guidance on Female Genital Mutilation in 2016, following requests by campaigners.
Despite repeated appeals to government for a national action plan (NAP) on FGM in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, culminating in the 2014 House of Commons Home Affairs Committee hearing outlining the case, only Scotland has such a NAP (entitled FGM: Scotland’s National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation, 2016-20). The aim of Scotland’s NAP is “banishing FGM”, described as requiring a better understanding of why practising communities sustain the tradition, which in turn requires the support of affected communities and individuals, as well as information, guidance and training for the statutory and third sector. However, the NAP is not resourced.