Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Local Government and Government Business
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is an horrific form of abuse which has devastating physical and psychological consequences for girls and women. The practice is common in some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities across the UK, including Wales.
It is often hidden from view and shrouded in secrecy. Recent figures from the NSPCC have revealed the scale of the problem with more than 70 women and girls seeking treatment every month in the UK, some as young as 7 years old.
Supporting victims and reducing rates of all forms of violence against women is a priority for the Welsh Government. A key part of this picture is raising awareness of and reducing the risk of FGM in Wales.
UK legislation under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, strengthened the 1985 Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act to criminalise FGM being carried out on UK citizens overseas with a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
The Welsh Government’s 2010 ‘Right to be Safe’ six year integrated strategy for tackling all forms of violence against women and domestic abuse, built on this legislation, containing actions specifically aimed at addressing FGM in Wales and providing support to those who are affected,
The All Wales Child Protection Procedures Review Group, published an 'All Wales protocol on FGM' in 2011. The protocol aims to increase awareness of the issue amongst agencies and professionals dealing with children, to identify children at risk and deal with cases in an appropriate manner. We continue to establish mechanisms to encourage appropriate information sharing with the police and other agencies to ensure appropriate action against those who carry out this horrific act.
Welsh Government is also proud to fund BAWSO, the all-Wales service providing specialist and holistic support to BME communities, including support to those who have been subjected to FGM. In 2011, specific funding was provided to BAWSO and health practitioners to develop a toolkit for professionals and parents as a teaching aid, to raise awareness of the health impact of FGM.
To build on this progress to date, one of my core priorities over the coming months is to progress our Programme for Government commitment to bring forward legislation to end violence against women. This ground-breaking legislation will cover all forms of violence against women, including FGM, sexual violence and domestic abuse. The legislation will also support the implementation of the 10,000 Safer Lives project.
Our White Paper recognised strong, strategic leadership will be necessary to deliver on this commitment, promoting cross-policy responses, multi-agency partnerships and attitudinal change on all forms of violence against women, including FGM, domestic abuse and sexual violence.
In recognition of the importance of the prevention agenda, improving education and information sharing between key agencies will be our priorities. The White Paper commits to ensuring all schools in Wales are supported to provide an age appropriate, healthy relationships programme which will include awareness raising on FGM.
Currently there is limited information on incidence of FGM in Wales. In order to address this we are bringing in specialist support. I will be asking for a review of current practice. This will include data collection and awareness raising, particularly with frontline professionals of the exact nature of FGM and to emphasise the illegal nature of this practice, as well as building an evidence base in Wales which is needed to effectively address this problem.
Everyone in Wales has a right to live in a safe community, free from abuse, fear and violence. Tackling FGM by raising awareness of the practice and supporting its victims will be a core part of achieving our aim of ending violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence in Wales.
I welcome the NSPCC’s initiative in launching its Female Genital Mutilation Helpline on June 24th, which will provide a much-needed, safe space where people can access help and advice FGM without fear of reprisal. Anyone who is worried about a child being or has been a victim of FGM can contact 0800 028 3550 for information and support.