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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