Female genital mutilation (FGM) is defined as the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or any practice that purposely changes or injures the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice is internationally recognized as a human rights violation of women and girls.
The World Health Organization estimates that between 100 and 140 million women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation and three million girls in Africa are at risk annually.
The Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012 makes it a criminal offence to remove a girl from the state to mutilate her genitals.
Since 2011, there have been about 3,780 women living in Ireland who have undergone the mutilation. The level of FGM continues to increase in Ireland. The 2015 European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) Report suggests that the number of girls at risk of FGM in Ireland is between 158 (low-risk scenario) and 1,632 (high-risk scenario).
It is imperative that health and child protection professionals working in Ireland understand and respond to this issue.
The stated figures for FGM prevalence and risk of FGM date from 2011, therefore it is likely that the current figure is slightly higher. Women and girls who have undergone this mutilation may present in various health-care settings.
The HSE National Social Inclusion Office was involved in the production and dissemination of the second edition of Female Genital Mutilation Information for Health-Care Professionals Working in Ireland.
Ongoing work in this area includes plans to:
- support training;
- raise awareness; and
- develop and strengthen appropriate referral and care pathways.
It also includes plans to provide appropriate information to health professionals and members of communities in partnership with relevant community-led organisations.
We also support a Free FGM Treatment Service operating from the Everywoman Centre located in the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) in Dublin city centre. It offers free, specialised, medical, psychological, sexual and reproductive care and counselling to all women and girls in Ireland who have experienced FGM.