The latest annual female genital mutilation statistics have been published. Data and the full report can be accessed here. FORWARD welcomes the publication of the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Enhanced Dataset by NHS Digital.

The data reveals that FGM is being carried out on girls under the age of 18 in the UK which is hugely concerning and highlights the urgent need for more work to do be done among FGM affected communities. There are huge gaps in the data capturing which country FGM was undertaken in, meaning the figures for the UK could be higher. There are also discrepancies in how women and girls affected by FGM are being treated and cared for.

Follow Up Care and Information

The data records the care and support girls and women affected by FGM are receiving and shows inconsistencies in this care and in the recording and reporting itself. The data indicates that in over 5,000 cases women were either not advised of the health implications of FGM, or the information was not recorded or unknown.

The same trend is apparent regarding the illegality of FGM. Significant numbers of women were not advised that FGM is illegal and in over 5,000 cases whether they were told or not is not recorded or is unknown.

Among the NHS Trusts submitting attendance data, 89% do not provide any mental health services. This is a clear gap in healthcare provision for women and girls who may have experienced severe trauma or who would benefit from mental health care.

Based on the above data, greater efforts need to be made to inform women and girls affected by FGM of the human rights and health implications of the practice. In order to do this training should be provided for all GPs so that they are equipped to provide consistent, relevant and sensitive support in FGM cases.

Recommendations for Future Data Collection

FORWARD is concerned by the low numbers of GP practices submitting data given the role of GPs as a first port of call for women and girls. Less than 1% of GP practices in England submitted data to the dataset which leads to concerns that perhaps not all GPs are fulfilling their obligation to report cases.

We also note that figures for de-infibulations carried out in the UK are not included in the reporting dataset. As the objectives of collecting the data include having the information to be able to properly plan, commission and improve services for affected girls and women. It will be important for the type of services provided by specialists to be included in reporting in order improve services.

Ensuring the Data’s Impact

Over the past 30 years FORWARD has been at the forefront of FGM work in the UK, influencing policy, practice and programmes nationally and has helped shape national and global initiatives on FGM. The recording, collation and publication of this data is something FORWARD has campaigned for to improve awareness and provision of FGM services in the UK.

We recognise that the collection of this data is still in its infancy and look forward to improvements and developments to the collection of the figures in order to ensure that it has the desired impact of improving services to girls and women affected by FGM.

FORWARD echoes the words of Lynne Featherstone MP who said in response to the publication that one case of FGM is one too many, and we stress the need for continued work with FGM affected communities until the social norms that perpetuate FGM are abandoned and no girl is at risk of FGM.