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Bristol launches campaign to stop female genital mutilation

PRACTICE: An instrument used to cut off a female's clitoris

HEALTH PROFESSIONALS, social workers and local councillors in Bristol have intensified efforts to tackle female genital mutilation.

Following last week’s International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), aimed at raising awareness of the illegal practice which involves intentional change or injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, the city council’s public health team announced that it would expand efforts to stamp it out in the city.

The Bristol Safeguarding Children Board estimates that up to 2,000 girls in the city are at risk of FGM.

The city council’s public health team leads what has become known as the Bristol Model, a FGM Delivery and Safeguarding Partnership, comprising a network of statutory agencies, voluntary groups, charities and community representatives, who work together with the common goal of stopping FGM.

The Partnership’s model was praised by the Home Office last year for its co-ordinated approach in tackling FGM in Bristol and continues to attract national interest.

The initiative emphasises that there are no health benefits to FGM and highlights the short-term health implications such as severe pain, shock and haemorrhaging. Long-term effects include uterus, pelvic and other infections, complications in pregnancy and childbirth and infertility.

The city council’s inner-city public health team has been working closely with affected communities over the last five years. Their campaign includes community education, empowerment and awareness raising with safeguarding children being the focus of each stage.

According to UNICEF, the countries with the highest rates of FGM include Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti, Egypt, and Eritrea.
Local community groups in Bristol are set to host a number of events over the next couple of weeks to help people in affected communities find out more about FGM and encourage them to speak out against it.

Assistant Mayor for Public Health, Barbara Janke, said: “Much progress has been made in Bristol and around the world to change perceptions about this practice in communities where girls and women are at risk.

“The majority of victims are girls under age 10, who cannot speak up for themselves. There remains a need for a fundamental shift in opinion so the practice of FGM is regarded as violence against a woman and a child abuse issue in the way that other harmful acts are.”

To learn more about FGM and access posters, leaflets and research please see the FGM page at www.bava.org.uk

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