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‘Do No Harm’: Experiences and Impacts of FGM Safeguarding, Bristol Study

Since the 2014 Girl Summit, the UK government has introduced a swathe of legislative changes and new safeguarding measures to protect girls from Female genital mutilation (FGM). This study, carried out by FORWARD and the University of Huddersfield, examines the views and experiences of these safeguarding policies and procedures, both among African diaspora communities and regulated professionals in Bristol.  Using a Participatory Evaluative Ethnographic Research (PEER) approach, we spoke to 38 women, men and young people from diaspora communities, and seven statutory professionals from education, policing, midwifery, and social care.

The research reveals worrying evidence that FGM safeguarding policies are inadvertently causing a great deal of harm to families, communities and young girls, both in Bristol and potentially across the UK. Their targeted and heavy-handed approach have increased scrutiny, suspicion and stigmatisation of families in many areas of their lives, from schools, to healthcare, to overseas travel.  These experiences have taken a significant toll on their mental health. Regulated professionals participating in the study warned against these negative effects and its potential to hinder FGM prevention efforts and possibly undermine the effectiveness of FGM safeguarding overall.

We make several policy recommendations, some of which were directly proposed by our participants, to help open up new opportunities for improving FGM safeguarding efforts across the country. By minimising the harmful impacts that FGM interventions cause to girls and their families, the goal of eliminating FGM in the UK will be more effectively attained.

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