16 December 2011

Falling between the cracks

As I know from working in Barnet, the borough is diverse – 33% of the population coming from the black and minority ethnic population, placing it 16th rank position in London. At the first anti-FGM meeting we held in Barnet recently under Safeguarding Month, 26 professionals attended to hear speakers from 28TooMany, Imkaan and FORWARD, sharing about FGM. Yet, why do women still fall through the cracks?

Anti-FGM legislation has been in place since 2003, with the Metropolitan Police’s Project Azure team investigating 46 allegations of FGM in 2008-9, and 58 in 2009-10. And yet there are still no prosecutions.

Recent estimated numbers of births to women with FGM living in London has risen to an estimated 7000 per annum in each of 2007 to 2009. Experience gained whilst recently visiting a London African Well Woman Centre, advised that since the service was advertised on Somali Satellite TV and YouTube in 2009, 200 have received healthcare and emotional support following FGM. However, FGM is not routinely recorded in maternity information systems, so there is no robust data about the numbers of births to appear with FGM. A recent study at Barts Hospital by midwives found that in many cases, FGM was not detected until the woman was in labour, meaning there had not been plans made in antenatal care, and there was often a mismatch between FGM in antenatal notes and on birth registers.

Data about numbers of women born in FGM practising countries living in London suggest numbers of births to women with FGM has risen since 2000 to new 2009 levels. The current data is inadequate for estimating the extent to which girls born in the UK have been subjected to FGM in contravention of the legislation, but could be as high as 3000 girls at risk per year in the UK.

It is hoped the new parliamentary group on FGM launched on 7th December. Will put pressure on the government to create a survey and routinely collect data to obtain better information and monitor the impact of the new guidelines. As the FGM Forum meets again in January under the Home Office, we hope services can be increased and FGM end in Barnet and across London, and will be suggesting NGOs work together to share data.

If you want to help, write to you MP and ask them to engage with the FGM working group; ask for data to be collected on FGM in the UK; ensure health services are provided and the legislation enforced. Spread the word by ‘liking’ us on Facebook!