FGM law change call from ‘persecuted’ Somali women
Women from Wales’ Somali community are being “persecuted for the crime of our ancestors” and are calling for a change to female genital mutilation (FGM) law.
Healthcare workers in Wales have been required by legislation to report any children they believe to be at risk of FGM to social services since 2014.
Campaigners say FGM is now a thing of the past in Somali communities and want to stop being “racially profiled”.
The Welsh Government said safeguarding is “sensitive to culture and religion”.
FGM is illegal in the UK and figures show there were less than 17 cases of FGM in under 18s recorded by Welsh health boards last year.
The cases, revealed in a BBC Freedom of Information request, were in children who had been born outside the UK and not in established British-African communities.
‘Mortified by the accusations’
One two-year-old was born with complex care needs and has been in and out of hospital her entire life.
During one spell in intensive care her family were called to an urgent meeting and feared the worst, only to be told by doctors they suspected that she had been subjected to FGM.
Her aunt says the whole family were angry they had been accused of such an act,
“I was thinking why are we being interrogated?” she said. “Why are we being asked these intrusive questions?
“My sister was shocked, my mum was mortified by the accusations.”
The family had to take the girl for a physical examination with a specialist before doctors agreed that no FGM had taken place.
It is a story that campaigners in Cardiff’s Somali community say is not uncommon in Wales since 2014, when a new law meant all health care workers were obliged to report any children they suspect to be at risk of FGM.
Hamda was shocked when a health visitor referred her to social services after she had a baby girl, even though she told the health worker she had no intention of doing FGM to her.
“I felt as though my opinion didn’t matter,” she said.
“I was from a certain culture, a certain community and the assumption was made that I was definitely going to do it, that’s what it seemed like.
“I am educated – why would I do that to my daughter?”
Cardiff and Vale Health Board said it did not discriminate between race or culture as “mandatory questions are asked of women of all ethnicities”.
Campaigner Zainab Nur said FGM was widespread in Cardiff’s Somali community 30 years ago but said the practice in their community has stopped.
“It was always known that 99 per cent of girls were done, but we’re continuing to be persecuted for the crime of our ancestors,” said Ms Nur.
“We’re being stigmatised and racially profiled. Its being classed as an epidemic when it’s not an epidemic.”
But health professionals say the rules around spotting children at risk were vital.
Janet Fyle, from the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Once a child has FGM you can’t go back and correct that, so we need to protect the children – not at all costs, we need to do so sensitively.
“We are not condemning any particular community and I think we should not give in to people suggesting what it is we need to do in terms of protecting children.”