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Improving specialist services for FGM

02 May 2024
Volume 32 · Issue 5


Juliet Albert explores a new project, ACERS-UK, which is currently underway and aiming to improve specialist service provision for survivors of female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is when the female genitals are deliberately cut or injured without medical reason. It is a form of gender-based violence, deeply entrenched in gender inequality and a violation of the human rights of women and girls. The practice is illegal in at least 59 countries, including the UK. Globally, an estimated 200 million women and girls, (5% of the female population) live with the consequences of FGM (World Health Organization (WHO), 2023a). Furthermore, it is anticipated that, as the world population grows, the number of women with FGM accessing services in the UK will increase (Jones and Albert, 2021).

In 2015, it was estimated that 137 000 FGM survivors (1.5% of women giving birth), predominantly from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, live in England and Wales (MacFarlane and Dorkenoo, 2015). NHS England Digital (2024) identified more than 85 000 FGM healthcare attendances between 2015 and 2023, 80% reported through maternity services (NHS Digital, 2021; Karlsen et al, 2022). FGM survivors have multiple disadvantages as women predominantly from minoritised ethnic communities who have suffered a serious sexual assault, usually during childhood. A high proportion are vulnerable refugee or asylum seekers and are therefore at increased risk of experiencing other forms of intersectional gender-based violence and socio-economic deprivation (Wikholm et al, 2020).

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