A statistical study to estimate the prevalence of female genital mutilation in England and Wales. Summary report.
The United Nations has recognised female genital mutilation (FGM) as a human rights violation. In the UK the practice is included in the UK Children Act and other legislation. There is recognition that it is practised in some minority communities in the UK. It has also been the focus of two and half decades of educational campaigns by voluntary groups in the communities concerned. Despite this, there are no reliable data on the extent of FGM in the United Kingdom. Lack of data on FGM marginalises the issue. An urgent need for these data has been expressed at all levels, from grassroots organisations to parliament. Data are needed for the planning and implementation of a comprehensive national strategy for the prevention and the elimination of FGM in the United Kingdom, to act as a baseline against which to measure the success of programmes to combat FGM and for targeted advocacy. Reliable data on FGM are also needed to inform maternity and gynaecological care as well as other support services thatare needed for girls and women with complications of FGM. These are the first systematic estimates for England and Wales. Although the methods used so far to derive estimates of the number of women and girls affected by FGM in the UK have led to the best estimates available to date, there are obvious limitations with the reliability of these figures. In this report, we present estimates which overcome the first of these limitations by deriving numbers of women born in practising countries from the 2001 Census of Population. We have extended the number of countries of origin practising FGM from six to twenty nine. The improved estimates are still subject to limitations 2 and 3 so a survey will be needed to produce estimates which include second generation women and to allow for possible differences between the prevalence of FGM in women living in the UK and in their countries of origin. The process of producing the estimates presented here will provide the groundwork for designing such a survey as well as furthering future community based research. (excerpt)