First-Ever FGM Clinics Open In England To Support Survivors & Girls At Risk Of Abuse

Photo by Pacific Press/Getty Images.
Hundreds of survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM) will be able to access expert care, support and treatment earlier thanks to a new network of NHS ‘one-stop shop’ clinics launched yesterday.
Survivors will benefit from the highly specialised FGM support being rolled out to eight new centres across England – in Birmingham, Brent, Bristol, Croydon, Hammersmith, Leeds, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest – as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Female genital mutilation is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, with no medical reason for this to be done. It is also known as ‘female circumcision’ or ‘cutting’, and by other terms, such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan.
FGM is usually carried out on young girls between childhood and the age of 15, most commonly before puberty starts. FGM is illegal in the UK and is classed as child abuse, but a 2007 report estimated that 66,000 women and girls in England and Wales from African communities were at risk of – or may have undergone – FGM, often leading to a lifetime of medical issues, including complications during childbirth.
There are four main types of FGM: type 1 (clitoridectomy) – removing part or all of the clitoris; type 2 (excision) – removing part or all of the clitoris and the inner labia (the lips that surround the vagina), with or without removal of the labia majora (the larger outer lips); type 3 (infibulation) – narrowing the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia; and type 4 – all other harmful procedures to the female genitals, including pricking, piercing, cutting, scraping or burning the area.
FGM is often performed by traditional circumcisers or cutters who do not have any medical training. In some countries it may be done by a medical professional. Anaesthetics and antiseptics are not generally used, and FGM is often carried out using knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades. FGM often happens without a girl's consent, and girls may have to be forcibly restrained during the procedure.
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Hilary Garratt CBE, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer, NHS England and NHS Improvement, and Janet Fyle, Professional Policy Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, held a launch event at The Royal Society, London, where FGM advocacy groups and community leaders spoke on how to end the practice and screened a new awareness video.

Matt Hancock says: "We desperately need these new clinics and British women and girls need our help and support. Our aim is to reach women sooner, before they engage with NHS maternity health services when the risk of FGM-related complications is greatest and can threaten the life of a mother and her child. The clinics will focus on education as well as treatment and support. With specialists who are trained to deal with both the physical effects and the physiological scars, I want that care support to be deeply embedded in the community."

Janet Fyle says: "We need to consider that where there’s one abuse, there’s a multiplicity of abuses, such as child marriage, physical abuse. We need health and social education should be raising awareness of FGM, too."
More information on the clinics can be found here.

More from Wellness

R29 Original Series