End the sexual abuse of schoolgirls

rogertitcombe's picture
 83
I am talking about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

We are approaching 'the cutting season' when hundreds (some estimate it as thousands) of British schoolgirls are permanently scarred and mutilated every year for religious or 'cultural' reasons.

It is illegal but virtually no efforts are made to detect it or prosecute the perpetrators because of 'cultural sensitivity'.

This is a disgrace, and schools need to be involved in the solution. Michael Gove should insist that all schools, including Academies, Free Schools and faith schools, should provide clear and specific health education to all pupils and parents about this practice. Ofsted needs to check that this is effectively taking place.

More controversially, this will not be enough. Victims need to be identified, given as much remedial medical attention as possible and the perpetrators pursued and charged. Schools also have a vital part to play in this.

In the late 1950s I remember being intimately examined by the school health visitor in order to check on the sexual health of my dangly bits. We called it the 'drop and cough' test. It was completely uncontroversial.

Something similar is needed for all girls, not just those from the communities where this 'traditional' mutilation is common. Our schools take all sorts of over-the-top measures in the name of child protection but nothing is done about this vile practice.

Hospitals and GP surgeries also need to be proactive. There is a legal duty to report suspected child abuse. This too should be made clear to the medical profession with regard to FGM.

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Comments

Neil Moffatt's picture
Thu, 06/02/2014 - 16:17

I totally agree. This is a barbaric, unsolicited violation of human rights at an age when they are not too sure of what is happening to them. But can suffer enduring pain. It is an issue that should see the political and religious 'correctness' bypassed to get this sorted. The perpetrators are often merely carrying on the tradition and need to be informed that it is outside their rights as parents to mutilate their daughters. It is or should be a criminal offence. There is no excuse for allowing this to persist.


Andy V's picture
Thu, 06/02/2014 - 16:31

With respect it has little to do with political correctness and nowt to do with religious 'correctness' - whatever the latter is.

It has everything to do with Human Rights gone mad in relation to permitting rights and protections for the perpetrators of illegal actions under the EU Directive on Human Rights. There is not an never can be a legitimate excuse of the physical, emotional and gender based activities done in whatever name, let alone alleged cultural traditions.

Neil Moffatt's picture
Thu, 06/02/2014 - 17:04

You are right in a sense (not that this is the key matter here - the mutilation is) - but political correctness means that we must respect the practices of religions even if we do not understand them. But the point is that the abject failure to deal properly with this illegal matter demonstrates that there is a lack of political guts to do the right thing. They are so often frightened of losing votes, but dealing with this would earn them enormous respect. Action is overdue.


Andy V's picture
Thu, 06/02/2014 - 17:15

Neil with respect FGM is a cultural rite not religious.

The repeated failure of, nay cowardice and corruptness in terms of the perceived impact on votes, by politicians in dealing with this and other cultural scenarios has a deeper and equally serious implication for our national society, and that is the feeding of organisations such as the BNP, EDL and other extreme groups.

Neil Moffatt's picture
Thu, 06/02/2014 - 17:35

Thanks Andy. However, culture and religion are rarely cleanly separated. Both frequently rest on misguided traditions. Like sacrificing sheep to 'Gods' because the inability to understand the world was appeased by such grand gestures.


Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 06/02/2014 - 17:40

FGM is abuse and it results in long-term health damage. An article in last Saturday's Times (I think) reported how women who have been "cut" can suffer kidney damage, back-ache, trouble during childbirth and so on.

That's why it's so important to educate children in school and their parents about FGM. First, it is a crime though no prosecution has taken place. Second, education is having some effect in countries like Niger where FGM occurs.

The Times writer suggested increasing GP's knowledge; creating a safe environment where women who've suffered FGM can talk about it and be educated about the harm to their daughters of having the procedure.

It is unacceptable to hide behind religious or cultural practices. We would not tolerate, say, child sacrifice in the name of religion or culture, or, say, the castration of boys to produce castrato singers. We should not tolerate FGM.

That said, any medical examinations should take place in hospitals or GP surgeries. Any attempt to make them compulsory in schools could backfire with parents keeping their girls away and such examinations causing distress for girls. There's a great deal of difference between the cough examination described by Roger and expecting a girl to lie on a bed with her legs apart to be examined.

Andy V's picture
Thu, 06/02/2014 - 17:48

Janet, did I miss something? I was not aware that schools were being asked to conduct examinations, which I wholeheartedly agree would be entirely inappropriate. However, weaving it into PSHE and/or gender based assemblies could lead to girls disclosing or seeking help, and would be a welcome start to educating young people about the practice.


Andy V's picture
Thu, 06/02/2014 - 17:45

So that is a reason to lump everything neatly together as opposed to treating everything is an accurate manner. /an approach based on generalities and misinformation feeds others with reasons to avoid and cloud the issue.


rogertitcombe's picture
Thu, 06/02/2014 - 18:16

Unless girls are routinely checked out somewhere by medically qualified persons (doesn't have to be a doctor) these crimes will go undetected. It is wrong to rely on abused children reporting the abuse. School is the obvious place. Missing children could be followed up by home visits. Hand wringing is not enough. Crime against children on this scale requires a robust, effective response.


A Cooper's picture
Thu, 06/02/2014 - 20:37

How would schools identify the girls at risk? Or should all girls be subjected to medical examinations? FGM is an abhorrent practice and I am pleased that the NHS have now been charged with reporting any incidence of it that they identify, but sadly, as we know with other cases of child abuse the perpetrators are particularly good at covering their tracks. As, Andy says, we need to empower and educate girls so that they understand that FGM is not only illegal but deeply immoral and that they are allowed to do something about it. There are many other practices that would fall into the 'child abuse' category being carried out in the UK, to which many blind eyes are turned in the name of religion or culture: corporal punishment, deliberate starvation to purge the soul and compulsory day light fasting for pre-pubescent children during religious festivals.


Andy V's picture
Thu, 06/02/2014 - 21:00

I accept that there is a dilemma here insofar as I agree with A Cooper point about the need to identify girls at risk to avoid a blanket approach.

With new born to preschool the NHS nurse and health visitors could be a useful trigger for examinations. Once at school then using a combination of target ethnic groups and extended period of absence could be another trigger. Nothing hard and fast here but food for thought ...

rogertitcombe's picture
Thu, 06/02/2014 - 22:08

I agree it is not simple at all, but the thinking on this thread is moving in the right direction.

Will it be listened to?

Neil Moffatt's picture
Thu, 06/02/2014 - 21:24

There is an article on FGM in the Telegraph today : http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jennymccartney/100258459/fgm-170000-uk... and here is the European FGM site : http://www.endfgm.eu/en/female-genital-mutilation/what-is-fgm/why-is-it-... They point out that FGM has drifted from a cultural to a religious matter at times.


Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 07/02/2014 - 08:59

Andy - the medical check was implied in Roger's original post. I would be against these taking place in schools. First, there's the problem connected with which girls would be examined and which wouldn't. Second, examination would identify abuse after it's taken place which is too late for the victim.

Prevention's better than a cure. Far better, as you say, to make it part of PSHE in schools and increase awareness via GPs, hospitals etc.

Andy V's picture
Fri, 07/02/2014 - 10:54

I would favour an approach that embraced the public awareness broadcasting (on a cyclical basis), health services, PSHE in schools. Whilst I agree that examinations can only identify the actual mutilation and prevention is the golden goal. It is also a necessary part of any awareness and eradication program in that it would help ensure all incidents are reported and brought to court where they should be dealt with severely and each case receiving a high profile in the media. Hopefully this would act as a deterrence for both the parent(s) involved and the cutters.


rogertitcombe's picture
Fri, 07/02/2014 - 13:16

Janet - While I sympathise with your view, I think it falls hopelessly short of matching the scale of the problem. The following is from the BBC news website.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18900803

"Twenty-three-year-old Ayanna, herself a victim of FGM, stands against the rain-lashed window of her home on the 19th floor of a Glasgow tower block in the Red Road district of the city - home to a new wave of refugees under the government's dispersal programme.

"I am so happy here," she says, clutching her 11-month-old baby to her.

"I no longer suffer the pain of sex with my husband. The pain was worse than childbirth."

She claimed political asylum to escape a forced marriage and to spare her daughter mutilation.

Ayanna explains that other mothers are allowing their daughters to be cut in Glasgow.

"There were two children on the estate, one aged three years and the other two weeks, who were cut recently by the elder women".

"They use razors, scissors and sharp knives".

FGM is a procedure which, at the least, involves cutting away part of the clitoris or, at its most brutal, all the exposed female genitalia, leaving only a small opening for urination and menstruation.

Women can die from its complications; sexual intercourse and child birth can be agonising.

It is accepted practice in parts of Africa and the Middle East and in immigrant communities from those areas. Some believe that it is a necessary part of becoming a woman. There is also a belief that FGM can reduce a woman's libido, and thus the chances of extra-marital sex.

In Glasgow I met a group of Somali women, all of whom had been mutilated.

"If the authorities could help us to make these people stop it, we would be very happy," says one of them.

"Since I arrived two years ago, I have heard nothing," says another. "There should be announcements, classes so people understand what's right and what's wrong."

"Five hundred miles away in Bristol, a group of schoolgirls tell me about "FGM parties".

"They cut them all together, as a group, because it is cheaper and quicker that way," explains 17-year-old Amina.

"At first the girls are all excited because it's a party, until they realise what is going to happen, and then they get frightened.

"It's done by the elder women, or the Imam, whoever is expert at cutting."

Isabelle Gillette-Faye Isabelle Gillete-Faye thinks the UK needs to do more about FGM

About 20,000 children in England and Wales, and about the same number in France, are deemed "at risk" every year.

The laws which made FGM illegal were introduced in France and England at about the same time, in the mid-1980s.

But whereas some 100 parents and practitioners of FGM have been convicted in France, there has never been a single prosecution in the UK."

Personally, I don't think France is doing enough either, but the inaction in the UK is a national disgrace. Here we threaten people with prison for historical sexual transgressions that, although reprehensible, are trivial in comparison with FGM.

Yesterday, after the 'not guilty' verdict on Bill Roach, one senior police officer invited women to search their memories and report any sexual transgression they can remember no matter how long ago it took place. He also said, "they will be believed".

I mention this not in any way to condone such sexual transgressions, but what about historical FGM? Midwives in maternity units must have seen hundreds, if not thousands of mutilated expectant mothers. Isn't this historical sexual abuse of a severity and cruelty far greater than anything Mr Roach was accused of? Surely midwives have a duty to report such evidence of abuse to the police, and the police must investigate each case, as apparently they are willing to do for other sexual offences. If not, why not? This would have a profound effect on such new mothers in terms of the likelihood of their inflicting the same mutilation onto their new born children.

If a mother was convicted of allowing her boyfriend to sexually abuse her daughter it would be national news and they would, quite rightly, both go to prison. Surely a mother or father allowing their daughters to be permanently sexually mutilated is even worse.

If a health visitor found that a child had been burned on the arm with a branding iron, this would be a major incident and the perpetrator would go to prison. Surely FGM is worse. Burns heal.

As I pointed out earlier, neither social services nor the police should rely on the child victims of sexual abuse reporting it, as the sole method of detection and prevention.

Andy is moving towards a more proportionate response in terms of increased attention from social services on families whose religious leaders condone, or in some cases arrange the mutilation, or who were born in countries where it is widespread.

A starting point might be the examination of such mothers, who presumably are more likely to inflict the traditional practice onto their children than would be the case for the population as a whole.

As for Janet's concern about vaginal examinations by medical professionals, surely in terms of the seriousness of the issue it is no big deal. Women and girls probably undergo hundreds of such examinations in their lifetimes for health reasons. There are lots of unpleasant medical examinations that are needed for health reasons. Surely taking effective action to prevent girls suffering FGM on the current massive scale is not just reasonably proportionate, it is absolutely essential in any civilised country.

At least something is being done in other EU countries. Here there is virtually nothing.

Andy V's picture
Fri, 07/02/2014 - 14:02

Can we get a couple of things straight:

1. I am totally against this barbaric and utterly senseless practice perpetrated against females no matter what their ethnic origin.
2. I believe that every person who is found the practice it or is manifestly culpable in perpetuating it must face the full rigour and severity of the law. The latter may well also need review to ensure that the punishments reflect the utter barbarity of the act
3. I do not believe that it is up to us to nor are any us equipped to differentiate between the impact of underage or legal age non-consensual sex compared to FGM.



"Andy is moving towards a more proportionate response in terms of increased attention from social services on families whose religious leaders condone, or in some cases arrange the mutilation"

There is no evidence to suggest let alone support the assertion that 'religion' is the driver of this damnable act:

http://www.forwarduk.org.uk/key-issues/fgm

http://news.discovery.com/human/female-genital-mutilation-begin-121210.htm

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/06/what-is-female-genital-mu...

However, there is indication that the practice is more likely to have its origin in male dominance/patriarchal society and reflects the place of females as chattel. The balance of probability then is that FGM is a cultural issue.

I do not propose or support a proportionate response. I have suggested and support:

1. A strategy to re-educate people about and eradicate FGM from UK society
2. Bringing every incidence to court and the heaviest legal redress applied to all involved in perpetrating FGM
3. A sustainable wide spread layered approach to:

a. Raise awareness and re-educate people with the goal of prevention
b. Embedding triggers within the community to identify incidents of FGM so they can be dealt with

This is hardly proportionate rather it is structured, balanced and carries harsh penalties for those involved in whole FGM cycle from collusion to perpetrate it through to those who conduct it.

I do not believe that schools have a place in the medical examination scenario. This would be inappropriate for the girls and would also almost lead to an increase in safeguarding issues.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 07/02/2014 - 14:53

Roger - I wasn't expressing concern about vaginal examinations by medical professionals in appropriate settings but school isn't one of them. Picture the queue of girls waiting for their turn to lay spreadeagled on the bed while a nurse conscious of the numbers outside peers and prods.

The Times last week put the emphasis on GPs to identify women who may have been cut and who may in turn inflict the same on their daughters. But the writer stressed sensitivity not because of religious or cultural reasons but for dignity and the building of trust. Education also was essential via medical and educational settings. This is having some impact in African countries where FGM is practised.

rogertitcombe's picture
Fri, 07/02/2014 - 18:13

The Guardian of 7 February carries a report on the progress of the campaign to stop FGM.

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/06/female-genital-mutilation...

This is from the report.

Norman Baker, the Home Office minister who is responsible for heading government policy on FGM, said he would be writing to Gove – whose voice was conspicuously absent from the day's announcements – to draw his attention to the Guardian's campaign.

"I'm delighted that a news organisation like the Guardian is running such a high-profile campaign, which will only add to efforts to defeat this appalling practice once and for all," Baker said.

Ministers from the departments of health, education and international development met to make a series of policy announcements, including:

• Mandatory collecting of data of victims in hospitals for the first time.

• A Home Office study into the prevalence of FGM.

• £250,000 of European money to promote a national NSPCC helpline and give training to frontline professionals.

• A redrafting of the existing safeguarding guidance note for schools, which will in future include guidance on FGM."

This is encouraging, except for the absence so far of any comment or contribution from Michael Gove.

I note the inclusion of, "Mandatory collecting of data of victims in hospitals for the first time."

This surely means doctors, nurses and midwives will be bound to report cases when they come across them, as I am proposing. But to whom, and with what follow up?

I fully realise just how difficult this is for a number of reasons, but these developments are positive.

Andy V's picture
Fri, 07/02/2014 - 18:28

Gove may consider that the addition of FGM as part of the inspection process is sufficient:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/ofsted-to-qui...

Personally I believe that it is also very necessary and easy to weave FGM into existing PSHE and/or Citizenship programmes of study.

FJ Murphy's picture
Fri, 07/02/2014 - 22:51

FGM is horrific, but I hardly think intimate examinations of young girls by the school nurse is appropriate, nor would it prevent the abuse, merely confirm its occurrence. Perhaps condign punishment when it is discovered might deter, along with encouragement to imams (it is, undoubtedly, most widespread amongst Muslims) to preach against it.
There have been moves in Germany to forbid male circumcision, abandoned after an outcry. What do people think of this somewhat related practice? I believe it is not as cruel and painful, but is it merely a question of degree?

Andy V's picture
Sat, 08/02/2014 - 09:08

Linked to my suggestion of re-education supported through raising public awareness there is ample scope for all strands of public media bearers to be involved, from newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, community groups (religious and non-religious) to PSHE/Citizenship in schools.

There are difficulties In terms of getting Islam on-board and these can be crudely segmented into:

1. International pressure on the host countries where FGM is practiced (the UN has not achieved much in this regard despite having a department dedicated to it)

2. Persuading Imams from each community or Islamic grouping to teach against it (e.g. Sunni, Sufi, Shia)

The following article concludes that FGM is not mandated but highlights well the internal difficulties in supporting and sustaining pressure against it:

http://www.minaret.org/fgm-pamphlet.htm

There is hope though as seen through this recent call for FGM to stop in Somalia and Mali:

http://www.voxafrica.co.uk/news/video/&v=0_3jmyplbz

http://plan-international.org/where-we-work/africa/mali/about-plan/news/...

rogertitcombe's picture
Sat, 08/02/2014 - 12:23

FJM - Health care professions are obliged to examine children for other signs of abuse if there are reasonable grounds for suspecting it has taken place. This sometimes applies to other forms of sexual abuse.

Some common forms of non-sexual child abuse, such as burning with a hot object, leave permanent scars. No-one argues that a child should not be examined to find out if this has taken place on the grounds that there is no point once the damage is done.

FGM, compared to male circumcision, is not just a matter of degree. There are some parallels but they are few compared to the differences. Here are some.

FGM is primarily child abuse. Although some argue that this is also true of male circumcision, this is highly contentious and the contrary view can be strongly argued. It is not possible to sustain any rational argument that FGM is not a gross form of physical as well as sexual abuse.

This leads to the fact that inflicting FGM on a child is criminal offence, not just in the UK but in most other democracies. It would also not be allowed in the NHS for such a procedure to be carried out on a consenting adult, if was not medically in her best interests. (Who knows what might be possible in the inadequately regulated private healthcare sector?). None of that applies to male circumcision.

Are you suggesting that FGM should not be crime, or are you just proposing that it should not be effectively investigated? Or are you just tossing in a red herring to deflect attention from the practice?

It is pleasing that the Scottish government has agreed to take action along the lines of those proposed by the Guardian campaign, which is clearly very strongly supported by the UK population.

Still there is nothing from Michael Gove. It is certainly true that FGM does not unduly hold back children in terms of being taught 'how to compete in the global economic race'. Perhaps our Secretary of State sees involving schools in the prevention of FGM as an unnecessary distraction from the main role of schooling. I do think he needs to make his position clear.

Andy V's picture
Sat, 08/02/2014 - 15:28

Roger, with regard to Gove did you miss my post on 07/2/14 at 6.28 pm?


rogertitcombe's picture
Sat, 08/02/2014 - 15:45

Yes, but I have just caught up. Thank you. Ofsted involvement is a positive development. Do you think that this could be further evidence of Ofsted moving away from Gove, or am I reading too much into his failure to comment?


A Cooper's picture
Sat, 08/02/2014 - 17:43

Whilst I welcome the move by Ofsted, ensuring that reporting suspected FGM are included in a school's safeguarding policy I think the teaching profession needs to be educated first. I opened a discussion about this during a staff meeting and very few teachers knew about the practice of FGM, and it certainly made many of them very uncomfortable to think that they could be teaching girls who had undergone such a barbaric procedure.


FJ Murphy's picture
Sat, 08/02/2014 - 20:28

I am not sure how what I have said can be interpreted as anything other than revulsion at this practice or that it should not be effectively investigated, just that I am not sure how schools could deal with it. Neither have I any desire to turn the discussion away from it, but mentioned male circumcision in the light of recent controversy in Germany. For some reason, you have decided to put that interpretation on my comments, in a rather unnecessary remark. Examining girls after the event would be too late, hence my concern to campaign against the practice. The fact that you have brought up Mr Gove is distasteful, rather sad that you have used this vile practice to have another dig at him, but many LSN folk do seem obsessed with him.


FJ Murphy's picture
Sat, 08/02/2014 - 20:29

Given that I recommended condign punishment for those carrying out FGM, I hardly see how you could think that I wanted it to cease being a crime.


FJ Murphy's picture
Sat, 08/02/2014 - 20:38

I wonder why this has taken so long to become a point of discussion in education circles. About thirty years ago, I recall going to the House of Commons for tea and speaking to MPs, one of whom, Marion Rowe (Conservative) had introduced a Private Member's Bill which became law, The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act. I had already heard of this practice, but it was largely unknown to most people. how sad that 30 years later, it seems to be even more widespread.


FJ Murphy's picture
Sat, 08/02/2014 - 20:40

If you compare what I said with Janet's remarks, you will see that they are essentially the same as far as examinations at school are concerned.


A Cooper's picture
Sat, 08/02/2014 - 22:34

FJM do you mean the practice of FGM has become even more widespread or the ignorance amongst the population has become even more widespread?

I don't think the ignorance surrounding FGM is confined to the educational profession, but is more widespread than that. Certainly, when I have broached the subject with close friends they were unaware that it existed. And, why would they? In this country the practice has been driven underground because it is illegal: families and victims fearing prosecution if they speak out. It has only been very recently that some women have had the courage to come forward and speak publicly about it.

You may remember the Children's Act 2006 which was meant to protect children and join up public services, because every child mattered. A year has not gone by since the Act's publication when we have not been outraged by yet more cases of child abuse or infanticide that appear to have slipped through the net. Your anecdote only illustrates my point: passing a white paper or a private member's bill won't stop child abuse.

FJ Murphy's picture
Sun, 09/02/2014 - 09:24

I think that awareness has increased, as there used to be almost complete ignorance of FGM. As for its occurrence, I think that is more widespread as immigration from Somalia and other parts of Africa where it is practised has increased.


rogertitcombe's picture
Sun, 09/02/2014 - 09:35

A Cooper - So do you think it would help if it was legalised? Perhaps it should be provided on the NHS? Of course just passing laws is not enough. There has to be effective enforcement. This will cost a lot of public money. Public sector jobs need to be created to educate parents and support effective health education, monitoring and enforcement. Could that be the problem for this government?


Andy V's picture
Sun, 09/02/2014 - 09:46

A brief insight into FGM coverage in schools.

London Schools

http://www.dw.de/classrooms-in-london-schools-tackle-genital-mutilation/... (November 2011)

“The London Metropolitan Police have teamed up with the agency Kids Taskforce and the local Lilian Baylis School to create a video featuring young girls learning about FGM's consequences through interviewing various authorities. The video is part of an FGM resource pack for teachers and students, and can be downloaded by schools using a password.

"I think it's absolutely vital that boys and girls know about this subject," said Detective Sergeant Vicky Washington from the London Metropolitan Police. "It may not be that they are at risk, but they could be exposed to someone who is. It's also about educating young people that this is happening and that it's child abuse and violence against women and has horrific debilitating effects, both short and long-term."

Ofsted

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/ofsted-to-qui... (January 2013)

First school in England and Wales to introduce lesson on the subject of FGM:

http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Lessons-primary-school-female-genital-mutil... (April 2013)

'Tackling sensitive issues in a time of change'

http://www.pshe-association.org.uk/content.aspx?CategoryID=1155 (27 June 2013)

Extract of Key Note speech at PSHE Association annual conference in June 2013

“Because that for me is what PSHE is really about: yes, we start with the topics which make PSHE famous – or infamous, depending on who you are: today we will talk about pornography, sexting, FGM, body image; and so we should: these are some of the most pressing concerns of our age. Children, parents and communities are united in wanting schools to play their part in addressing these concerns. This is about helping children to keep themselves safe, and nothing could be more important than that.”


Lesson plan based on Islington response to FGM

http://www.pshe-association.org.uk/resources_search_details.aspx?Resourc... (August 2013)

DFE
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/personal-social-health-and-ec... (September 2013)

“However, while we believe that it is for schools to tailor their local PSHE programme to reflect the needs of their pupils, we expect schools to use their PSHE education programme to equip pupils with a sound understanding of risk and with the knowledge and skills necessary to make safe and informed decisions …

Advice for schools
We provide grant funding to the PSHE Association to work with schools to advise them in developing their own PSHE curriculums”

These are a random selection of FGM orientated materials easily found via a web search. There are many more. What it appears to indicate is that while action has been slow – the UK outlawed FGM in 1985 and the removal of children from the UK to conduct FGM outlawed in 2003 but the governments of the day seem to have done nothing in relation to education coverage via schools – there has been action in recent times. Rightly or wrongly the subject area of PSHE is (a) non-statutory and (b) left largely to schools to contextualise delivery and context. Citizenship has been compulsory in the secondary sector since 2004 but the framework for KS3-4 did not and from 2014 still does not readily lend itself to FGM.

While it is true to say that the SoS could intervene and direct that FGM become compulsory within PSHE it is possible that he considers that the issue has coverage with HTs having the responsibility and freedom to construct their own PSHE programmes of study that:

a. Reflect the subject framework, and
b.Are contextual to their school role (e.g. ethnic and cultural diversity on the school’s roll).

It is also being monitored through Ofsted inspection rubrics and as such there is little more he can do other than remind HTs of the need to ensure FGM is covered.

That said, Mr Gove has the entire DFE at his disposal and as such the same reiteration could be undertaken by Mr Laws down to the appropriately senior curriculum desk officer.

Equally pertinent is the fact FGM has been a passive problem for successive governments since 1985 when a right minded law was enacted but nothing tangible was done to ensure a cohesive and interlinked strategy. Indeed, one could argue that the fact that FGM was only criminalised following a private members bill brings shame on our political executive.

A Cooper's picture
Sun, 09/02/2014 - 12:52

Roger, I certainly don't think it that FGM should be legalised and it is not the point of view I was trying to put across in my post. What I was trying to point out, and which you have rightly said too 'passing laws is not enough'. Education and enforcement are the direction that we should be taking. There has been some remarkable work carried out in Kenya to educate and show families of girls that a rite of passage can be undertaken through a ceremony that does not involve any mutilation whatsoever.


FJ Murphy's picture
Sun, 09/02/2014 - 17:23

'Public sector jobs need to be created'. I am not sure that creating a whole load of FGM Outreach Workers, FGM Co-ordinators, all on large salaries, no doubt accompanied by targets, meetings, press releases, more bureaucracy and so on will help. Not every problem can be solved by more public spending. I am not usually a fan of so-called 'community leaders' (a euphemism for self-appointed ethnic minority busy-bodies), but they are the ones to be approached to help stamp this out.
By the way, like A Cooper, I am not a supporter of FGM and wish it to remain a criminal offence, before you start questioning me on that again.

rogertitcombe's picture
Sun, 09/02/2014 - 18:33

FJM - The Guardian on 8 February carried a big spread on the adulteration and misrepresentation of processed food by the food industry. Apparently ONE THIRD of all processed food items on supermarket shelves is mislabelled, in many cases seriously.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/07/fake-food-scandal-revealed-...

A shockingly few LA food inspectors and a tiny handful of labs are doing this work. This is what cuts in public spending and 'small government' always results in. Deregulation is an invitation to fraud and corruption. I have often wondered who checks the small print on the tins and packets of processed food. The answer is hardly anybody - with the consequences revealed by the Guardian.

I agree that much taxpayers' money is wasted but not by the likes of Local Authority food testing labs and Trading Standards. These operate in modest premises with comparatively low paid staff providing an excellent and highly cost-effective service.

Where money is wasted is in outsourcing public services to private companies. How many examples do you want? Even where this has not yet happened public services are quangofied. There are hundreds of these all set up as if they were actually already privatised. They have posh offices in central London and have Chief Executives, Chairs, Non-Executive directors, Company Secretaries - the whole outsourcing shebang.

An hour ago I heard on the BBC News, a manager from the Environment Agency stating that its staff were doing a remarkable job in the face of the flooding crisis "THROUHGOUT THE COMPANY"! What company?

This and the last government work(ed) on the principle of public sector bad, private sector good. It's main policy on public services is to divert taxpayer's money into the private coffers of outsourcing companies as fast as possible, alongside wasting vast sums on the quangocracy, in preparing them for an eventual seemless transition to privatisation.

To return to the point, LA and other directly employed public service staff are a massive bargain in comparison. FGM has proliferated because of a lack of regulation as well as a disgraceful lack of interest. Regulation needs regulators.

FJ Murphy's picture
Sun, 09/02/2014 - 20:28

I do not subscribe to 'private good, public bad' nor 'private bad, public good'. FGM is more widespread because we have more immigrants from areas where it is practised and probably greater awareness of it.
We can all come up with examples of bad practice in both sectors. Why do local authorities need climate change officers? Some LAs waste money: my LA spent millions of pounds turning a barren expanse of concrete in front of the town hall into a barren expanse of granite, and so it goes on. It is a question of priorities.
We have social services departments. Would it be so difficult for them to gather together relevant local figures and spend a day with them on the subject of FGM, so that they could then go off into their communities and spread the word? Most of the FGM takes place amongst Muslims, so I think some trenchant sermons from Imams would be very effective. A cut in councillors' expenses wouldn't go amiss either, if you are concerned about money.

FJ Murphy's picture
Sun, 09/02/2014 - 20:54

Roger, here is an example of how a particular LA, Sheffield, could find the money to tackle FGM and have plenty left over.
http://www.thegwpf.org/sheffield-waste-500k-climate-change-officers/
No doubt you won't like the source of the information, but it is probably no less impartial than the Guardian, whose advertising revenue depends on adverts for public sector jobs.

rogertitcombe's picture
Sun, 09/02/2014 - 21:18

FJM - This is the primary source for your link.

http://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/climate-change-o...

It contains the following statement that your version has edited out.

"All to make no difference to a problem that does not exist anyway."

Try telling that to the people of the Somerset Levels.

All I can say is that climate change denial is very well funded and I doubt that the truth is quite as presented.

FJ Murphy's picture
Sun, 09/02/2014 - 21:52

Whether it exists or not is irrelevant, as Sheffield should not be wasting money on these pointless posts. Climate change denial is not nearly as well funded as climate change propaganda, backed by huge grants from governments and the UN. I have an open mind on it, but do not swallow the whole climate change agenda with its so-called remedies, but that is another debate. No surprise that what has happened in Somerset is being blamed on anthropogenic climate change. At least you are not blaming Michael Gove. Even spending only £50,000 on one CCO is an utter waste of money as Sheffield can do sweet **** *** about whatever might be happening. Back to FGM, however. I am waiting for you to respond to my suggestions as to how to prevent it. Do you still want an army of vagina monitors on the loose?


agov's picture
Mon, 10/02/2014 - 10:59

"Climate change denial is not nearly as well funded as climate change propaganda, backed by huge grants from governments and the UN."

Correct.

And there's a lot of money to be made out of this global warming malarkey -

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/12/al-gores-net-worth-green-energy...

Not that the issue is climate change anyway. The climate has always been changing. The issue is what role humans may or may not have had.

agov's picture
Mon, 10/02/2014 - 11:01

As to the Somerset Levels flooding see this -

http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84683

agov's picture
Mon, 10/02/2014 - 11:04

Then read the subsequent 4 blogs on the subject.

You may have heard Chris Smith on R4 this morning claiming never to have been aware of the 2008 policy and claiming that it is not current EA policy. Perhaps he may need to inform himself of his EU obligations before he lands the government with a big fine.

rogertitcombe's picture
Mon, 10/02/2014 - 12:23

FJM - Throughout this thread you posts have opposed effective measures to combat FGM and you have made a number of attempts to introduce distractors. Your last effort was to argue that FGM was just a more extreme version of male circumcision, presumably hoping to start a debate in a tangential direction. I didn't rise to that, but your latest efforts do need a response as they spring from the underlying neo-liberal philosophy that appears to inform many of your contributions, entitled as you are to make them.

First, Sheffield. As I am sure you know, Sheffield is emerging from a very difficult period during which its local economy collapsed owing to the rapid decline of the linked industries of coal mining and steelmaking. New development is therefore needed on a huge scale to replace what has been lost. Sheffield is determined that this should be 'sustainable' development. This means industrial and social development that can be sustained in a future when measures required to combat climate change become increasing urgent and restrictive. So Sheffield City Council has very responsibly addressed these issues. Obviously if you take the line of the so-called climate change sceptics, who comprise the political arm of the fossil fuel industry supported by neo-liberals who argue that economic growth must trump every other consideration, then you won't agree with this.

This is the relevant section on the Sheffield City Council website.

https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/in-your-area/housing-services/environmental...

I have no problem with this at all, presumably along with the voters of Sheffield, who I believe have failed to return a single neo-liberal, climate change denying Conservative councillor for a very long time.

Your link is based on an FOI enquiry. The reply from Sheffield City Council is factual, but the implications drawn by the climate changing denying author of the linked article are not.

Next, man-made climate change based on greenhouse gas (mainly carbon dioxide emissions). You admit to being a sceptic and therefore not in favour of costly, effective measures to combat green house gas emissions. Fine, but as a science teacher I can't help being surprised.

The whole issue, like much of scientific truth, is profoundly counter-intuitive. Having studied the chemistry of combustion as a school pupil, and later the biology of photosynthesis, I was surprised that, compared to 20 percent for oxygen, the earth's atmosphere contained (then, 50 years ago) only 0.03 percent carbon dioxide. How could this tiny proportion have such huge significance for the sustaining of life on our planet?

The counter-intuitive nature of this is readily revealed if you ask anybody (including a 16 year-old with an A in GCSE science) where the many tons of material in an oak tree came from. The response you will get is, "from the soil", which is of course incorrect. By far the most of the mass of the tree comes from the air in the form of carbon from carbon dioxide.

In just 50 years the carbon dioxide level has risen from 0.03 per cent to 0.04 percent, an increase of a third in the atmospheric concentration of a gas vital to life. The many changes to the nature of the planet over its geological and biological evolution have always been linked with and tracked by changes to the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere.

Over a timescale of millions of years during the carboniferous period, that began about 400 million years ago, carbon became trapped in the earth's crust from the decay of the incredibly rich flora and fauna that were sustained by much higher levels of carbon dioxide than exist today. However, as carbon became entrapped, these levels declined in step, along with the mean surface temperature of the planet, to eventually fall to the pre-industrial revolution levels we have become used to. From this time this has begun to be reversed as fossil fuels have been dug up and burned. This is a rapidly accelerating process.

The trillions of tons of trapped carbon also trapped solar energy captured over the millions of years that it took the carbon deposits to form. The rate of release of that energy has been on the same accelerating upward path as economic growth has escalated and spread to the whole planet.

This is all scientific fact that I hope you teach your pupils. The public climate change debate has largely ignored these basic underlying facts and concentrated on the actual evidence of warming. This too is counter-intuitive since a global temperature rise of 2 deg C seems very small indeed, when it is has extremely serious consequences for human life on the planet. That target will not now be met because of the power of the interest groups that promote the burning of fossil fuel and the neo-liberal, economic growth basis of globalised capitalism. This means that a global catastrophe cannot now be avoided. The critical advantage of the deniers is the insidious argument that you also deploy. 'It makes no difference if we make sacrifices to combat climate change unless the whole world does, and they won't, so lets just carry on making hay while the sun shines.'

Now back to FGM. There is no necessity for an 'army of vagina monitors' any more than we needed an 'army' of nit nurses or 'drop and cough' nurses. Unlike nits, a child needs to be examined only once. So yes, vaginal inspections are necessary. Given that they take place as a matter of course in maternity departments and GP surgeries, it is arguable whether they are needed in schools. I believe they are but I accept that it may be possible to target these in a reasonable, acceptable and non-discriminatory way.

Then you invite me to condemn the silence from Muslim religious leaders, Imams and the like. I certainly do. Why is no-one insisting that Mosques condemn FGM to their flocks and report any Imam mutilators and arrangers of FGM to the police? The issue of priests grassing on each other's sexual abuse of children is of course not confined to Islam.

Finally you invite me to blame immigration from Moslem countries like Somalia for the increase in FGM. This doesn't follow and isn't necessary if effective steps are taken to make it clear what cultural practices are welcomed in the UK, what are unwelcome, and what are forbidden by law. We do need to be much more robust about this.

This too will need more public appointments and training.

rogertitcombe's picture
Mon, 10/02/2014 - 12:32

Oh dear, what a disappointment to find agov, someone not taken in by the Free School and Academy propaganda, taken in by the climate denial lobby. This is driven by immensely rich and powerful private interests, far eclipsing the resources of the scientists that are united in their views. This lobby comprises the entire multinational fossil industry supported by the resurgent neo-liberal, pro-unlimited growth orthodoxy of most the governments of most of the world, including present communist giants and the states that comprised the former communist USSR.


rogertitcombe's picture
Mon, 10/02/2014 - 12:52

Now we have UKIP contaminating the argument with rubbish about the EU. The Netherlands, a country wholly signed up to the theory and practice of the EU has a huge proportion of its land below sea level. The Dutch are astonished that the lack of public investment in managing our tiny proportion of flood-risk low level has been going on for so long. The EU wild-life-protecting measures affect the Netherlands the same as they affect us.

My gripe about the Environment Agency is that it's standard quangofied structure is top-heavy with shadow-privatision posts and systems that cost a fortune. Its scientists and experts however are top quality and almost certainly right about the cost-effectiveness of various flood prevention measures. It is this and the previous government's 'small state' philosophy that is the source of the present catastrophe.

I note that all of a sudden the normal free market based ' caveat emptor' approach of the government has suddenly been transformed into full-on socialist, cost what it takes, state intervention, including mobilising the army, as public anger at grows at the consequences of these particular public spending cuts. The associated strategy is to blame it all on Chris Smith (convenient Labour background), and the EU.

rogertitcombe's picture
Mon, 10/02/2014 - 12:53

I meant 'fossil fuel' industry!


Andy V's picture
Mon, 10/02/2014 - 13:34

It is somewhat frustrating that the moderation of posts takes quite so long. I made contributions to the FGM debate Fri/Sat and initially they appeared with the 'moderation' caveat but now they appear to have been totally removed. Worst of all is the fact that LSN much prefers input backed up by evidence and yet when one provides it the posts languish with the moderator, which carries the blight of making them obe by the time they eventually appear.

My conclusions: (a) stick to personal unevidenced or anecdotal evidence or just not bother at all!

rogertitcombe's picture
Mon, 10/02/2014 - 15:40

Very informative and helpful. Thank you Andy. However the national picture is still patchy despite good work being done in some schools and some areas. Surely the DfE needs to take a lead.


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