Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation Chapter 1: Demography and Epidemiology of FGM

Female genital mutilation is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women as discussed in the Introduction, it is a criminal and potentially lethal, almost always harmful, assault, both on a person’s body and on her mind.

Whilst however there is no dispute about the status of this abuse, ascertaining with any precision the incidence of female genital mutilation in any location (including the UK) is difficult, given both its general illegality and the intimate nature of the practice itself. Estimations of how frequently FGM occurs, and of the likelihood of risk for given populations, inevitably require informed guesswork and a considerable degree of sensitivity to the issues as they are interrogated.  

The damage caused by FGM is intensely personal and private, and even more so because the subjects are (most usually) minors who cannot give meaningful consent either to the procedure itself, or to any subsequent proposed medical examination. 

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Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation Chapter 7: Prevention: Formal Approaches

The available instruments of enforcement in eradicating female genital mutilation are both formal and informal. Whilst the prevention of FGM is self-evidently a matter for the legal authorities, this is by no means the only way in which upholding the law is – or should be – enforced.

Despite occasional attempts by some proponents of specific approaches to make the issue ‘either/or’, the effectiveness of any one prevention strategy is likely in the end to be enhanced (or just occasionally to be hampered) by the others.

The tools of enforcement include community engagement, education via schools, clinics and other public facilities, working with the transport and migration authorities, media programmes, briefing of professionals and ultimately the legal process itself.

Even all these strategies cannot, however, ensure prevention, especially when the fundamental meanings of FGM are still perceived differently by different elements of the practising communities, the preventative public and and voluntary services, and the general public.

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Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation Chapter 8: Prevention: Communities

Female genital mutilation is a complex business. It involves deeply entrenched beliefs, real and resolute social and economic forces, human agency of a particularly intimate nature, brutality and secrecy. It is also held by large numbers of those involved, and perhaps also by the recipient of the action, to be in the best interests of the person who experiences it.

These are not easy issues to unpick, and the path towards understanding and arresting the practice is further complicated by the gulf between the traditions and beliefs which engender and enable, even ennoble, FGM, and those which proclaim it without exception to be abhorrent abuse.

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