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Female genital mutilation in the UK: considerations for best nursing practice

27 June 2019
9 min read
Volume 28 · Issue 12

Abstract

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is any process that injures or removes part or all of the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is a growing public health concern in the UK because of an increase in migration from countries where it is widely practised. Education on FGM for nurses is key to supporting women who have undergone the practice, as well as safeguarding girls and women who are at risk. Nurses must understand the history and culture of FGM as well as the long-term health complications to be able to support affected women both professionally and sensitively.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is any process that injures the female genital organs or the partial or complete removal of the external genitalia of a woman or girl for non-medical reasons, and is a violation of women's human rights (World Health Organization (WHO), 2017). Up to 200 million girls worldwide have endured FGM; 137 000 affected women and girls are living in England and Wales (Macfarlane and Dorkenoo, 2015). Because of increasing migration from countries where it is practised, FGM is an growing public health issue in the UK. The care of these women must be looked at closely by the nursing profession to enable improvement.

A study of more than 28 000 women in six African countries found FGM caused adverse obstetric outcomes including disease and death (Banks et al, 2006). Andro et al (2014) emphasise that FGM is also a growing health issue across Europe, although the practice is illegal in most European countries (United Nations Population Fund, 2018). The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2015) reports that there are 137 000 women who have undergone FGM living in England and Wales. The number of women living in England who were born in countries where FGM is still practised is increasing, according to research from City University London (Macfarlane and Dorkenoo, 2015)). The NHS (NHS Digital, 2017) reported 9179 new cases of FGM in England in 2016 alone.

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