A statistical study to estimate the prevalence of female genital mutilation in England and Wales: summary report

Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development (FORWARD)
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Despite legislation passed in 1985 and 2003 making female genital mutilation (FGM) an offence, the findings of this study indicate that this illegal practice is increasing in prevalence. Funded by the Department of Health and in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Department of Midwifery, City University, the study provides the first systematic estimates for England and Wales on:the prevalence of FGM among women aged 15 and over; the number of registered maternities, that is, pregnancies ending in a registrable live or stillbirth, to women who have undergone FGM; and the estimated numbers of girls aged below 15 at risk of FGM and the type of FGM. The study reveals nearly 66,000 women with female genital mutilation (FGM) living in England and Wales (2001), and more than 20,000 girls under the age of 15 potentially at risk of FGM in England and Wales. The report provides background information on FGM: reasons for its practice; human rights issues; health risks; FGM practitioners; age when first performed; and evidence that FGM is a concern in the UK. It comments on previous estimates of FGM prevalence in the UK and their limitations The present study derives numbers of women born in practising countries (mainly Africa) from the 2001 Census. The methodological and ethical problems in updating the estimates using subsequent sources are discussed. Results are tabulted by countries of origin, and groupings of countries according to prevalence and type of FGM; estimated numbers of maternities to women with FGM for all local authorities where percentage exceeds 1% in England and Wales for 2001-2004; and estimates of the numbers of girls, by age groups, at risk of or subject to FGM in England and Wales. While these results are the most rigorous estimates to date, the discussion notes their limitations and reasons why the numbers may be underestimates. Not only is FGM a form of child abuse, the study notes that the Department of Health recognises it as a form of domestic abuse. It is hoped that the overall findings will support the planning and implementation of a comprehensive national strategy in the UK that will expedite efforts to end FGM within one generation. (Original abstract)

Subject terms:
female genital mutilation, black and minority ethnic people, child abuse, women, girls, health, health care, abuse;
Content type:
statistical publication
England, Wales
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