New guidelines have been issued to doctors and other health professionals in Britain on how to care for women who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).
The guidelines, drawn up by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, say doctors should be aware of the health complications of FGM, such as infections, complications in pregnancy and psychological trauma, and understand that the law requires health professionals to report to the police all cases of FGM in patients under 18 years of age.
Dr Naomi Low-Beer, lead author of the RCOG guidelines, said FGM—which has been inflicted on up to 170,000 women and girls in the UK, according to a parliamentary report—was ‘a violation of human rights and a form of child abuse for which there can be no justification’.
Meanwhile, the UK’s first web app designed to allow teenagers to learn about FGM anonymously, and get help if they are at risk, has been launched, the Guardian reported.
The free app, designed at Coventry University with the help of local schoolchildren, has privacy features to allow teenagers to get the facts about the practice and access helplines without being traced. Named ‘Petals’, the app can also be used as an educational tool.
More than 20,000 girls in Britain are estimated to be at risk of FGM. The app was launched ahead of the summer “cutting season”, when thousands of girls face undergoing FGM. It has been illegal in the UK for 30 years and taking a child abroad for the procedure has been banned since 2003, though there has yet to be a successful prosecution.
‘People keep it [FGM] a secret,’ said one girl who helped with the app. ‘By telling people, you might feel like you’re disowning your family.’
Speaking at the launch in London, Nicky Morgan, secretary of state for education and minister for women, said: “Until recently this harrowing practice too often remained in the shadows and kept a secret despite the unimaginable and lifelong suffering it can cause.
“We have a duty to stop this happening,” she added. “Cultural sensitivities can never be an excuse for FGM.”