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Female genital mutilation has been regarded as a traditional practice where there is a removal, cutting or mutilation of female genitals. The major reason behind carrying out the process is to have a control on sexuality of female sex (Skaine, 2005). There is a presence of a belief that FGM helps to bring a reduction in sexual urges of females as well as her temptations to have extramarital sex thereby leading to preserve her virginity (Boyle, 2005). There is also a belief that female genital are dirty and unsightly hence mutilation may aid in maintaining the norms of hygiene (Mire, 2011).
On the contrary, FGM does not carry any health benefit but leads to a number of disabilities and infections for the females who have undergone the process. In severe case, the severe bleeding and prolonged infection may cause death (Lee, 2008). As per from physical sufferings, it further leads to a serious impact on overall mental health and psychological state of girls (Loackhat, 2004). The practice has been banned in many nations across the world but is still going on. In this respect, the rationale behind undertaking the present study is to assess the issues surrounding the protection of children from female genital mutilation. This is as steps have been taken to curb the practice of female genital mutilation in form of laws, policy framework as well as legal action (Momoh, 2005). But still not much has happened in terms of eradicating FGM; hence, the study will thus focus on identifying the issues that have led to non-protection of girl child from ongoing practice of FGM. It will further focus on what steps can be taken by social workers so as to protect the girl child.
The selected aim for the study is “To assess the Issues surrounding the protection of children from female genital mutilation”.
The objectives taken for the same is as follows:
The dissertation will begin with the introduction chapter so as to get an idea about background statement that is followed by aims and objectives of the study. It will then move towards background section. In the methodology section, the needed literature for the present report will be identified by adhering with a systematic procedure. This will involve from finding out the databases that will generate useful information on FGM and he issues that are hampering the protection of girl child. This will be followed by deciding over the key search terms that can help in assessing the relevant information. There will further be a use of inclusion and exclusion criteria so as to make the search and process of literature identification to be more refined and proper. Then arrives the literature review where arguments will be presented. This section will constitute an evidence so as to support the claims/arguments. This will be done in a sequential manner. The dissertation will then end with conclusion section so as to draw out the implications without introducing any new material. Recommendations will be presented on the way in which improvements can be made on protecting children from the practice of FGM followed by describing a clear course of action to be taken.
The present dissertation is significant as it will raise awareness about the issues of FGM and protection of girl child on part of social care workers. An integral part of the responsibilities of social care workers is to work with people and support them through difficulties. The issue of female genital mutilation is a growing concern (Momoh, 2005). Apart from providing relief and support to the females who have gone through the painful act, there is a need to provide protection and security to those who are at risk of FGM (Sylla, Palmieri and Jagne, 2011). The present study will provide information about the ways in which issues related to protection of children from FGM can be dealt with. This is of great significance for the social workers who are working in this area.
Female Genital Mutilation also known as FGM that is a ritual by which there is a removal of female genital organs. The reason behind carrying out this process is a belief that it helps to control the sexuality of females (Ellison, 2013). The practice is quite traditional and has got the African roots. It can further be considered as a very cruel act which is carried out by the parents as well as extended family members who themselves are responsible for taking care of the girl (Kelly and Hillard, 2005).
It is very essential to protect the children from same as the girls that are undergoing with this process have to face severe pain, creation of many disabilities and infections. In some cases, it has also resulted in death of girls and causing psychological harm to millions of women every year who are in living state and have undergone with the process (Female genital mutilation/cutting, 2015). Moreover, the very concept of Female Genital Mutilation is a violation of rights of a girl child and her right to bodily integrity. The practice is against the law but is still being carried out in many African nations. In UK itself, there is an estimated 1, 00, 000 victims of FGM (Elvin, 2014). It has been estimated that around 66000 women living in England and Wales during 2001 has underwent the process of FGM (Tackling FGM in the UK, 2015). Despite of this fact, local authorities have undertaken very few section investigations on allegations against practice of FGM. Social worker in this area is required so as to increase awareness of the masses towards the ongoing practice of FGM in many nations including UK. The importance of social workers is crucial as the problem has got social roots and its eradication requires a change in society (Levin and Asaah, 2009).
Hence, the current study is trying to give a due emphasis on the issues that surround protection of children from female genital mutilation. This will aid in giving recommendations to the social workers as to what necessary steps can be taken in this direction.
According to Momoh, 2004 Female genital mutilation is a collective term in which a range of practices are included that involve removing parts of a healthy female genitalia (Momoh, 2004). As per view point’s given by Brett, 2015, World Health Organization has given a wider definition of FGM which is as follows. “Female genital mutilation is inclusive of all those procedures where there is a partial or total removal of external female genitalia or any kind of injury caused to the organs in females due to nonmedical reasons” (Brett, 2015).
Female genital mutilation is practiced for nontherapeutic reasons. The process has often been considered as a cultural custom by families as well as communities. The families face a huge pressure to carry out this practice. It has been regarded as a rite of passage for a woman to make a girl ready for adulthood and help her achieve a good marriage (Costello, 2015). However, the findings of WHO considers the practice to be a manifestation of gender inequality. Some people from Muslim sects have put an argument that FGM was recommended by Prophet Mohammed. But the very ideology has been denounced by senior Muslim clerics in abroad and UK that the practice has got no Islamic roots (Brett, 2015).
There are a variety of cultural groups in UK which practice different degrees of mutilation (Ball, 2008). Excision and clitorecdectomy are the two most common types of mutilation. World Health Organization (WHO) has classified female genital mutilation into four types. The first type involves clitorecdectomy while the second type of FGM consists of partial or total removal of clitoris and labia minora. In type 3 FGM, narrowing of vaginal orifice is carried out. Lastly, type 4 includes all the harmful procedures that are done to female genitalia for nonmedical purposes (Rymer, 2003). This consists of cauterization, scraping and incising.
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It is estimated that a total of 100 to 140 million females have undergone genital mutilation worldwide. Approximately 3 million girls are undergoing this harmful practice each year. FGM is prevalent in a total of 28 African countries (Female Genital Mutilation: Caring for patients and safeguarding children, 2011). The prevalence rates of FGM are the highest, 90 per cent, in Egypt, Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan. However, Banks and et.al., 2006 have researched that it is also true that the practice is just not restricted to African nations but happens in some ethnic groups found in Middle east and Asian regions. It is also found in Europe among those communities that originate from these parts of the world. In Britain, there are some ethnic groups which practice female genital mutilation. These are those that have migrated to this country. While majority of these groups are refugees, some have migrated from Egypt, Ethopia, Iraq, Kurdistan, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Sudan (Banks and et.al., 2006).
While developing an understanding of this concept, it is important to discuss the risks related to this practice. Mutilation exposes females to immediate risks that include severe pain, tetanus, septicimea, haemorrhage and even death (Banks and et.al., 2006). As these procedures are carried out by traditional circumcisers in unsterile conditions without anesthesia, the consequences become worsened. Rispin, 2005 have pointed out the long term consequences of FGM. In long term, problems are experienced by girls and women with their sexual, reproductive as well as general health. They also become prone to urinary tract and pelvic infections. FGM leaves women infertile (Rispin, 2005). Even if they do conceive, several difficulties are experienced by women due to scarred birth canal. As a result of this, risk of still birth increases sue to internal tearing. All this exposes the females to maternal death. Moreover, the girls and women who undergo FGM become more prone to cyst formation (Bewley, Creighton and Momoh, 2010). Apart from that, several unintended cuts and incisions are caused into urethra and rectum when girls struggle during the procedure, thus leading to fistulas. Research done by Costello has revealed facts that in spite of the pain and suffering faced by these women, they do not consider themselves feel mutilated, stigmatized or insulted. They consider it to be a traditional practice that defines them to be females who are eligible for marriage and can be accepted by communities (Costello, 2015).
Females suffer from FGM when they are young. Sometimes this is even performed in girls who are just a few days old. In Somalia, girls aged 4 to 9 years undergo this practice. This has serious impacts on them which may be short term as well as long term. Short terms impacts are of physical, psychological and social nature (Catania and et.al., 2007). FGM has serious physical impact on young girls. There is permanent damage to the victims. There is excessive bleeding which may lead to the death of the girl child. Fainting is another physical impact. The girls are mutilated by midwives who use thorns, blades, razors, pieces of broken glass bottles and knives for carrying out the process. The same cutting tool is shared among a number of girls who are mutilated at the same time (Ray, 2011). This exposes the young girls to infections such as HIV/AIDS, tetanus etc.
There may be immediate complications such as shock from bleeding. The young girls experience pain and stress from cutting of very sensitive and delicate areas of genitalia. When the blood vessels in the vulva get cut during FGM, it leads to bleeding. Serious bleeding results into shock. With protracted bleeding, anaemia or even death may occur (Elmusharaf, Elhadi and Almroth, 2006). The young girls develop a tendency of urine retention from fear of pain. The tissue swelling and injury to urethra also leads to pain due to which pain and discomfort is caused during urination. With retention of urine, the young girls are exposed to a number of bladder and urinary tract infections. Further, if the circumcisers are not experienced, FGM leads to damage to organs such as anus, bladder and urethra.
There are various psychological impacts of FGM on young girls. They get scars on the genital area which reminds them of the horrible procedure throughout their life. The girls found it difficult to sleep and sit. They have nightmares about the pain which reminds them of the pain when they were mutilated. The young girls also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks. They develop low self-esteem (Mwenda, 2006). As the girl is a child when FGM is performed on her, undergoing the whole procedure itself is a traumatic experience for her. Majority of girls continue to have flashbacks. Moreover, it causes long lasting emotional damage. Further the girls suffer from feelings of anxiety, fear and loss of trust. As the girls are quite young when they undergo this painful procedure, they are not aware of the cultural and traditional beliefs regarding this practice (Newland, 2006). In such circumstances, when they see their parents supporting the practice which is causing intense pain and suffering to them, they develop feelings of betrayal by parents (Complications of FGM, 2011).
Most of the literature studies have portrayed FGM to be inhumane as well as form of abuse for human rights. Young women as well as girls who are made to undergo this practice have to face many complications. In severe cases, it lead to death as well. Although FGM have been declared as an unnecessary practice but it is still being practised in many nations. The traditional and cultural belief about the same is entrenched in such a manner that it makes FGM as a practice which is difficult to eradicate (Sheriff and Orwenyo, 2014). Protection of any specific group against any form of abuse calls for undertaking of legal action. Same applies to the case of female genital mutilation as well.
However, it seems clear that not much has been done by UK government to curb this issue. This has been in spite of the fact that there have been around 1 lakh victims of FGM in UK itself. The main argument given by authorities is that FGM does not fit properly into the child protection system of UK. This is due to the reactive nature of system that relies on referred cases in comparison to identifying the children who are at the risk of undergoing FGM procedure (Female Genital Mutilation in the UK, 2015). This is as the referrals about female genital mutilation are not coming from agencies as they are not aware about the current happenings. Victims rarely disclose about the incident. Moreover, the perpetrators are family members (Lee, 2008).
Things are however taking a change on account of a press and political interest on the absence of prosecution under UK legislation. There has been presence of two ministerial round tables that involved Health, International Development and educational department, Home Office and Crown Prosecution Service for tackling the issue. But it is also a known fact that inspite of the presence of increasing interest, very few cases have been taken by local authorities involving allegations against female genital mutilation (Kontoyannis and Katsetos, 2010).
A campaign has recently been funded by the home office so as to raise awareness of a national helpline for FGM which is being run by NSPCC. It has received around 200 calls since June 2013 (Elvin, 2014). Many of the calls are about professionals that seek for the information in comparison to ones that are referring a case. This area has clearly highlighted towards lack of potential referrals. All these instances clear suggest that social care workers are in a need of new referral pathway so as to identify as well as protect victims.
There has been a presence of other legal laws so as to protect the girl child from FGM. One such is recognizing FGM as a means of child abuse in the year 1989. Government further published some guidelines in 1999 showing as to how the law may work. This definitely provided the route to prosecute the perpetrators. However, the law has still not been backed by robust guidelines from medical bodies such as RCGP, RCOG, RCP or the AMRC (Ellison, 2013). It has further failed to produce a set of policies and procedures that are require to be followed by local authorities.
The matter to resolve FGM has further been compounded with the existing Population demographics and resource issues. There has been a massive influx of refugees and asylum seekers. This clearly shows that people can no longer be provided housing in urban communities where means are undertaken to protect girls from FGM (Elmusharaf, Elhadi and Almroth, 2006). Moreover, there is further a presence of a limited financial aid from health department thereby making it difficult for authorities to decide as to whether the money should be spent on educating the girls to refuse FGM or to carry out reverse operation on the children that have already been infibulated (Dustin and Phillips, 2008). The researchers are further of the view point that UK authorities have made effort to reduce FGM by punitive legislation but have not focused on bringing a change in their attitude as well as creating alternative ways to affirm the cultural identity.
Qualitative research is an investigation method that involves revealing the range of behaviour and perceptions of target audience in relation to specific issue or topic. It studies groups of people in depth so that hypothesis can be constructed (Bhandari and Joensson, 2011). Qualitative research yields descriptive results. It is concerned with exploring issues and developing an understanding of the phenomena. By making sense of unstructured data, qualitative research provides answers to questions by analysing the information. In contrast to this, quantitative research is a logical approach which more data – led. It provides a measure of the thinking and perception of people from numerical and statistical point of view. In other words, quantitative research systematically investigates observable phenomena with the help of computational or mathematical techniques (Bellamy, 2012). Therefore, quantitative data is in numerical form such as percentages, statistics etc.
In the present dissertation, qualitative research has been done. The aim of this study was to assess the issues surrounding the protection of children from female genital mutilation. It was intended to assess the concept of female genital mutilation and its widespread nature. Further, the research aimed at carrying out an assessment of the legal and cultural issues that surround the practice and protection of young girls from FGM. This was important to be done so that recommendations for practice of social workers can be provided. Qualitative research was best suited for this. With it, the phenomenon of FGM as well as issues surrounding protection of children can be understood in – depth. Answers could thus be provided to the research questions by analysing unstructured data.
Various journals, books, articles were studied. For carrying out qualitative research using these sources of data, the following method was adopted:
A systematic procedure has been adopted for identifying the literature that was needed for the present dissertation. It has helped in establishing credibility of the dissertation. The present procedure involved making decisions regarding the use of relevant electronic databases that could provide useful information on female genital mutilation. This was followed by making decisions regarding the key search terms to be used. The following important points form a part of the search strategy that was followed for present dissertation on issues surrounding protection of children from FGM.
The present dissertation required accessing latest information on FGM. This was needed so as to find out the current issues that surround the protection of children from female genital mutilation. For this, various electronic database were searched. An e- database is a collection of information on a particular subject (Knopf, 2006). This information can be searched and retrieved electronically. Electronic databases have been used in the present dissertation as they provide large amount of information in less time (Relevo and Balshem, 2011). For the present dissertation, the following databases were used.
The Cochrane Library: This is a collection of databases that contain information about medicine and other health care specialities. It consists of collection of reviews, meta analyses, systematic reviews. It provides high quality information (The Cochrane Library, 2015).
PsycINFO: This is an indexing database and contains more than 3 million records. These records contain peer reviewed literature in behavioural sciences. It also has professional coverage beyond psychology. this extends to medicine, social work and other subjects (PsycINFO, 2015).
PubMed: PubMed consists of citations for biomedical literature, life science journals and online books. These are more than 24 million in number. Citations are inclusive of links to full text content (PubMed, 2015).
Key words: Key search terms are those variables that help in defining and providing direction to search related to a particular topic. The search for articles is preceded by the key search terms which consists of a list of all possible words that define the topic of the study (Astin and et al., 2008. ). Hence, the key words for the present dissertation consisted of all the words that are related to FGM and cultural and legal issues surrounding protection of children. Along with the key search terms there are a list of synonyms and acronyms. With these, there was carried out a comprehensive search for journal articles. It helped in managing and avoiding a large list of references that usually emerge from the data bases (Barroso and et.al., 2003).
There are required certain parameters which bring precision in the research. Inclusion and exclusion criteria are such aspects. In order to accomplish the aims and objectives of the research, it becomes a priority to possess a subject population which carries desired attributes (Ampson and et al., 2003). Inclusion criteria are those characteristics that make research articles eligible to be included in the study. In contrast to this, exclusion criteria are the characteristics which disqualify subjects from being included in the study (Jenkins, 2004). For the present dissertation, inclusion and exclusion criteria help in producing reliable and reproducible results. This is because they help in carrying out search for relevant literature which is capable of providing exact answer to the research question (Loke, Price and Herxheimer, 2007).
Female genital mutilation is a culturally recognized tradition. From theoretical context to this practice, it is important to consider the path from cultural relativism to feminism. Many complex universal human rights as well as cultural relativism arguments are highlighted by the process of FGM. However, these are not restricted to creation, perspective and acceptance. Here, there is presence of a complex dilemma which is the notion of cultural relativism versus universality of human rights (Thierfelder, Tanner and Bodiang, 2005.). With the practice of female genital mutilation, it is important to recognize the importance of cultural relativism. However, equally important is to understand accurately and honestly as to why various cultures view FGM positively. There is variation in the tradition of excising external genitalia of females which depends on the culture. Long term cultural consequences are faced by a girl who does not undergo FGM. Her family may ostracize her. She may also not be able to marry and suffer various social pressures.
It can be analysed that western cultures find it difficult to accept that a woman can perpetuate the subordination of her own daughters (Mitchum, 2013). There are various cultures in which FGM is actively promoted for aesthetics and hygiene. Supporters of female genital mutilation consider it as a cultural and social right. It can be evaluated that it is complicated to obtain solutions to FGM specially when there is inclusion of cultural relativity. However, it is necessary to be obtained so that it could be ensured that young women and girls are not subordinated under the umbrella of male dominance. It is important to consider three critical issues when analysing cultural relativism against human rights dichotomy. First issue is the role that state plays when there are conflicts on gender, cultural differences and international human rights (Nour, Michels and Bryant, 2006). The second is the question which says why human rights activists attempt to eliminate FGM when their own culture practices it. The third issue is whether these cultural practices should continue to occur even if they violate international human rights.
Feminism is a legal concept which is concerned about unjust subordination and discrimination of women. As per feminism, women have always been devalued, ignored and subordinate in cultural, social and political aspects (Obermeyer, 2005). The ultimate purpose of feminist legal theory is to bring subordinate and restrictive treatment of women to an end. It can be evaluated that female genital mutilation acts as a challenge to feminism.
Radical feminism has been regarded as a specific branch of feminism which is based on the view point that society based under patriarchal rules has been oppressive to women (Thomas, 2006). Hence, for the radical feminists true equality of sexes can only be brought by bringing down the social constructs of gender along with the rest of inequality (Rhodes, 2005). The concept of radical feminism further aims towards challenging and overthrowing the patriarchy by opposing the standard gender roles as well as oppression of women so as to aid towards radical reordering of society (Singh, 2007). Radical feminist in this area try to get to the root causes of oppression for dismantling it. They further believe that the root cause of oppression lies in sexism.
The issue faced by radical feminist with respect to FGM is that they are not addressing the real needs being the basic rights of women. They often get silent when it comes to real abuses of women such as female genital mutilation, religious “honor killings. Till now they have given exclusive focus on reproductive health as well as sexual rights of women which are tied to lifestyle choice rather than human rights. It is an alarming fact that the radical feminists have got a monomaniacal focus on issues in form of sexual rights, reproductive health, contraception, and abortion rather than FGM that demands a lot more attention (Richards, 2012)
However, there is still a presence of scattered feminists such as Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda who have been addressing g the issue of FGM. However, they are not prominent in feminist literature or UN conferences (Chancey, 2011). It has further been a curious fact that these radical feminist leaders show courage to all the female oriented issues but get silent when they are confronted with more fundamental and abusive issues such as FGM (Hays, 2014). Hence, the requirement is that the radical feminists must address the issue from an objective standpoint.
Systems theory of law was given by Niklas Luhmann. In this, systems theory was applied to structures, processes and development of legal procedures. Systems theory is focused upon three topics. These are systems theory is taken as societal theory, communication theory and evolution theory. According to this theory, social systems are considered to be systems of communication (Satti and et.al., 2006). Also, this theory considers society to be the most encompassing social system. As per the social systems theory, a system is a boundary between society and its environment. It divides the society from infinitely complex exterior. A distinctive identity is possessed by every system which is constantly reproduced in its communication. This identity depends on what is considered meaningful.
Social systems are operationally closed but they are dependent on resources from the external environment. According to this theory, each system works strictly as per its own code. It is not bothered of the way in which other systems perceive its environment. It can be analyzed that cultures, tribes and communities which practice FGM are social groups that have their own communication and code of operation (Shell-Duncan and Hernlund, 2006). They practice FGM according to their own cultural, religious or aesthetic belief and are not bothered about the way in which other cultures perceive them. According to systems theory law, legal system is considered to be an own autopoietic and differentiated system within the society.
A sociological theory consists of a set of ideas that provide explanation for human society. Being selective in terms of priorities and perspectives, the sociological theory provides a particular view of reality. Structural sociological theory is concerned with analysing the way in which society as a whole fits together. Hence, as per this theory, society is seen as a system of relationships that create the basic structure of society. According to structuralism, FGM is practices as a part of structural laws which apply to a particular society (Terry and Harris, 2013). As per sociology theory, it can be analysed that practising of female genital mutilation becomes possible only when each unit of the society functions cooperatively. In a community, where FGM is considered mandatory, every element works in harmony towards carrying out this practice. The parents of the girl child, the senior members of the community and sometimes the girls themselves cooperate in carrying out the mutilation. It is only then that such an operation is successfully carried out. According to social theory, all these are bunch of working parts that function independently and cooperatively within the society. For the entire community to work, these individual systems need to work together (Platt, 2015).
There is another sociological theory known as social conflict theory. As per this theory, society is a system of unequal groups and hence they are always in conflict (Degni and et.al., 2012). This brings changes in these groups. It can be analyzed that the groups, males and females are considered to be unequal. Females are considered to be subordinate to males. This leads to emergence of practices such as female genital mutilation so as to make the women subordinate to men. However, it is based on the cultural belief that removal of external genitalia of females will make them subordinate to men. This inequality in the groups leads to conflicts which are evident in the form of opposition to the practice of FGM by females. However, it can be critically evaluated that the practice of FGM is successful in certain cultures only because it is heavily supported by females of the family (Ray, 2011). As per sociological theory, there are differences in the way society shapes gender roles and expectations. Different societies have different beliefs regarding the ways in which females should behave if they want to be treated fairly and gain respect.
The basic claim if this theory is that the behavioral traits shown by human beings are not on account of any special creation but have been determined on a genetic and environmental level. They have further been developed through evolution from the ancestors (Sterelny and Fitness, 2003). Human behavior can thus be assumed to be a result of kin selection in combination with cultural evolution. As per the sociobiology, Reproductive success can be regarded as the dominant factor for determination of human behavior tendencies. In other words, sociobiology theory contends that we have been designed as reproduction machines (Street, 2006).
This theory suggests that an individual forms relationship with people who he feels will be the best for survival of genes. Individuals get attracted to those partners who produce healthy offspring followed by caring for them (Dunlop, 2015). In this regard, men have a tendency to select those women who are fertile. In the same way, women pick those men who can provide children as well as render fertility. It is further based on the idea that behaviors that led to promotion of reproduction are selected naturally (Lloyd, 2005).
The communities that are practicing FGM have a notion that women are fertile and can be selected for the masses only if they have undergone the process of FGM.
Human rights are those privileges that are inherent to all human beings irrespective of their nationality, resident place, gender, religion, language caste, creed, colour or any other status. All the human beings are entitled to these rights without any discrimination (Kalev, 2014). These rights are by nature interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. The rights have been expressed as well as guaranteed by law. International human rights law has put forth many obligations by which the government has a right to act in certain way if someone is not given the right. This is an essential requirement so as to promote as well as protect human rights along with the fundamental freedom that is present with individuals or groups. These are inclusive of political as well as civil rights. These are in form of right to life and liberty freedom to express, social, cultural as well as economic rights (Ross, 2011). Other than this, there is also a right to take part in culture, have access to food, work and education.
However, in spite of the presence of these human rights there has been a presence of many barbarous acts that have outraged the conscience of mankind. The advocates of human rights agree that even after sixty years the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is still a dream rather than a reality (Lee, 2008). Violations have been found to exist all over the world.
In this regard, FGM whether practised in any form has been considered as a gross violation of human rights for girls. This is as the practice has been denying the girls as well as women from the right to Physical and mental integrity, Freedom from violence, the highest attainable standard of health, freedom from sex based discrimination, Exemption from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments as well as life (Bob, 2011). In this regard, international human right bodies have set a standard that addresses the issue of FGM and the rights it has been violating. These standards on international and regional level require the nations to fulfil their human right obligation by carrying out protection of the girl child who are at the risk of FGM (A Human Rights Violation, 2015).
Female circumcision which is also known as female genital mutilation is a worldwide practice. To some it may be a human ritual but for others it is a complete violation of human rights. This dichotomy between the opinions has led to a creation of conflict at international level between those who accept the tradition of FGM and the ones who consider it as a violation of human rights (Platt, 2015).
There has been an increase in the campaigns for ending up the practice of FGM in UK. As per the centre for Reproductive Rights, FGM can be defined as the name given to the cultural practice that entails for partial or total cut in female genitals. FGM has led to a spark in debate all over the world inclusive of first UN-backed “Girl Summit. But still, women practising FGM do not find it wrong (Thierfelder, Tanner and Bodiang, 2005). The concern about FGM is based on health consequences of the practice but is but is equally important in the question of human rights. FGM has led to a complete violation of the fundamental rights that are bestowed on young girls in the age of 0 to 5 years. As per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is the obligation of UN member states to ensure the protection as well as promotion of human rights which is inclusive of sexual and reproductive rights (Ogunmwonyi, 2015).
One of the mist difficult obstacle for overcoming the reproductive and sexual rights like FGM is to establish it in those states where historical, cultural and religious barriers are restraining there implementation. UN has based itself on the primary aim to establish as well as promote the international rights that is regardless of political, economic and cultural systems (Steiner, Alston and Goodman, 2008). The OHCHR being United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has made an attempt to promote human rights. It is still important to note that concept of human rights still face issues in global setting that is culturally diverse. With respect to reproductive rights, there is no means by which international Consensus can be reached about whether sexual and reproductive rights can be regarded as universal.
It has further been suggested that human rights are based on western and secular concepts. UN women further suggest that putting a ban on FGM is a crucial step for bringing in about cultural and attitudinal change. This suggests that what is more important as compared to cultural and traditional beliefs is the security as well as liberation of young girls in the age of 0 to 5 years is the application of human rights.
The Children Act 1989 has been there to allocate the duties to the local authorities, courts, parents as well as other agencies in the UK. It is there to ensure for safeguarding the children followed by promoting there welfare. It further centers on the idea that a child is best cared by their own families (Terry and Harris, 2013). However, it has further issue provisions when parents and families do not cooperate with the statutory bodies (Terry and Harris, 2013).
FGM have been considered as a form of child abuse in the headings of both Physical and Emotional Abuse. A local authority thus has the right to exercise power under section 47 of Children Act 1989 if they believe that the child has suffered or is likely to suffer from FGM (Sloth-Nielsen, 2012). Under the Children Act 1989, local authorities may further apply to courts for various orders so as to prevent child from being taken to abroad for mutilation (Abdulcadir, Margairaz, Boulvain and Irion, 2011). In the same way, as per section 46 of Children Act 1989, a police officer may remove he child from parents and use their powers for police protection up to a period of 72 hours (Act, 2012).
The local authority has further got powers as per Section 44 of the Children Act 1989. Here, the local authority may apply for an EPO which stands for Emergency Protection Order. The order provides authority to applicant for removing the girl and keeping her safe in accommodation for a period of 8 days. This order ensures towards short term safety of girl child. On the basis of sections 31 and 38 of the Children Act 1989, EPO can be followed by an application from local authority for a care, supervision and interim order. Without having such an application, the EPO is likely to lapse and the local authority may not be in a position to take parental responsibility of the girl child (Female Genital Mutilation Multi-Agency Protocol, 2015).
Societies in developing nations have been facing a constant challenge to adopt some modern ideals along with retaining cultural practices and time-honoured traditions. In this regard, FGM can be regarded as a tradition that has been lumped as similar to honour crimes, murders for dowry, foot binding among others (Degni and et.al., 2012). Though a form of abuse, members of communities in which FGM is practiced, perform it with good intentions. They consider it to be as future welfare for the child. They do not consider it as an act of abuse. On resonating theme that has been surrounding FGM is that the people who practice this approach are considered to be full member of society. Hence, women who are in favor of this ritual do not consider it as a human right issue but as a part of cultural heritage.
There is a need to change this behaviour of people regarding FGM (Utz-Billing and Kentenich, 2008). However, it can be critically analysed that it is difficult to change human behaviour. It has been centuries that the practice of FGM has existed. It is practised due to the ingrained behaviour of people of certain communities. It can be argued that these people support FGM due to their own reasons. These reasons give rise to such behaviour. Prime reason due to which FGM is done is to preserve virginity. People have a tendency to practice mutilation because they have belief that it preserves the honour of family. They also consider that FGM promotes chastity (Ellison, 2013). It can be analysed that the females can preserve their virginity for the wedding night. However, it can be critically evaluated that preserving virginity for the wedding night through FGM suggests that there will be use of a razor or knife for cutting the vaginal orifice. It is required in the situation when vaginal orifice is too small for forceful penetration. This has serious physical and mental consequences for the females. It exposes them to the risk of infection as most of these procedures are not performed in a sterile manner.
But, there are many nations in which family honour are closely linked to virginity. It is believed by Somali families that the honour of their family lays in the preserved virginity of their women. It is because of this reason that these people have a tendency to practice FGM. They consider it as a way of bringing to heel female (Leye and et.al., 2007). Through this, their family honour is believed to be preserved. Hence, female genital mutilation is a traditional practice. But, with time, people have become educated and make informed decisions. Raised awareness towards FGM encourages them to oppose this harmful practice.
It can thus be analysed that FGM as a practice has got social convention that is deeply entrenched in ethnic groups. Girls and the families who have practised FGM get social status and respect. Girls receive full acceptance in the community. In fact in many African societies the females who have undergone FGM get rewards in form of celebrations and gifts. Moreover, the price of bride is also much higher in the girls who have been cut than who have not undergone the procedure (Denison and et.al., 2009). However, it can be critically evaluated that it is a human tendency to follow the traditions blindly. People still follow the traditions that have continued for years no matter how insane or useless they are. This tendency creates issues in protection of children from female genital mutilation.
There have been previous strategies so as to eradicate this harmful ritual. These have focused on persuading the local leaders mostly men for abandoning this practice. They have generally ignored the role of women in perpetuating the practice. This strategy has not been so successful and has made it necessary to ensure towards active involvement of women for carrying out the eradication efforts (Wangila, 2007). However, when the issue is judged by its cultural importance then it seems that complete eradication may not be possible. The only solution left is of replacing it with a less harmful practice which will serve the purpose of making transition into adulthood and identity formation (Freymeyer and Johnson, 2007).
Demographic and Health Survey held in northern and central Sudan has provided shocking revelations. Out of the 3,805 women who have been interviewed, around 89 percent has undergone FGM. Out of these, 90 percent wanted their daughters to be circumcised thereby indicating there favour towards continuation (Wangila, 2007). FGM have been highly supported by both men and women. The very support received from women front has made it a powerful force towards its continuation. Moreover, those who have supported FGM claim that it is the westerners who are in favour of eradication of this practice. Hence, they consider it to be an infiltration of their societies with western values. Hence they have been resisting the eradication efforts (Afolayan and Oguntoye, 2009).
Considering the problems associated with the ill practice of GM, it needs to be eliminated. However, eradication of this practice requires empowering families, people and communities. The families that decide not to get their young girls mutilated should be empowered socially and economically. This is of crucial importance due to various reasons. The families that do not practice FGM are socially excluded from their communities (Braun, 2009). They are no longer involved in any activities of their community. Moreover, the identity of girls who have not undergone mutilation is coupled with the belief that they are not eligible for marriage. As such, the men of that caste do not prefer to marry girls who have not undergone genital mutilation. Therefore, families who do not follow the practice of female genital mutilation should be strongly empowered as they are in need of it. Without empowerment, it becomes difficult for these people to survive the social pressures (Diop and Askew, 2009). It is only with empowerment that the practice of FGM can be abandoned at community level.
However empowerment of these families is an issue in itself. It needs an open and reflective dialogue on the topic. Sometimes an intercultural dialogue becomes the need of the hour. But, this can be effective at eliminating FGM only when the dialogues raise and stimulate discussion on human rights (Shell‐Duncan, 2008). The races practising FGM are mostly not aware of human rights principles. Hence, it becomes difficult for the social workers to convince them regarding the adverse consequences of FGM.
It is recommended to develop programs that aim at providing empowering education to the families who oppose to undergo the practice of FGM. Empowering education would help in enabling the people to examine their own beliefs and values related to FGM in an open way. Educations sessions will not only impart new knowledge to the people but also provide them with a platform where they can share their experiences (Ako and Akweongo, 2009). This will help them in revealing and exchanging complex inner feelings. Thus, conflicting attitudes toward FGM could be better examined. During these sessions, information can be provided to people about human rights, general health, religion and most importantly, sexual and reproductive health. Traditional means of communication can be used by the social workers for empowering them. These can include poetry, theatre, music, dance, story telling etc. modern methods can also be used such as mobile phone messages and computer based applications.
While empowering the people, it is to be considered that educational activities are sensitive to local as well as religious concerns. During this, certain issues are faced as sometimes the information provided in educational sessions are perceived by the people to be morally offensive and result in negative reactions in the communities (Chibber, El-Saleh and El Harmi, 2011). Therefore. It is recommended that the information provided for empowering people should be based on evidence. It should also build on local knowledge and perceptions. Female genital mutilation manifests gender inequality, hence it is important that a special focus should be laid on women empowerment. However, for inspiring inter group dialogue and to avoid misunderstanding, educational activities must reach all the groups in the community. These approaches would help in dealing with the issues surrounding the protection of children by bringing change in the behaviour of people.
Various communities practice FGM in UK as a cultural and religious practice. They do not consider FGM to be a criminal offence as they consider it to be a part of their culture. They know that it has been done for generations and so they do not consider it wrong. It can be analysed that they do not view this practice as constituting mutilation. Rather , it is considered to b a cultural practice by them which bis similar to male circumcision. The practice of male circumcision is not viewed as illegal in UK. (Asekun-Olarinmoye and Amusan, 2008) It is for this reason that these communities were not able to connect the practice of FGM with female circumcision. This indicates that the communities need to be educated to enable them to raise voice against this practice. The various categories of FGM were not considered as illegal by various communities in UK.
There is a 'culture of silence' around FGM. As per a study conducted by AFRUCA (Africans United Against Child Abuse), it was found that most of the people did not inform others if they were going to practice FGM on their children (Voices of the Community, 2015). However, as per the views of Ban Ki- Moon, Secretary General of United Nations, change in the practice of FGM is coming from within the communities (Weswala, 2015). It is only when the communities understand the risks and negative consequences associated with the procedure that they will contribute to protection of children. In this regard, the social workers need to make efforts in the direction of breaking silence and disapproving myths around FGM. These can be the first way to deal with issues surrounding protection of children from female genital mutilation.
It is recommended to the social workers to strengthen the voices of communities. This can be done by conducting awareness raising workshops and presenting FGM as an illegal act. To raise the voice of communities against this injustice being done to children, community champions can be set up. These can carry out various projects within the community. In this regard, it is of extreme importance to strengthen the voices of children (Berg and Denison, 2012). It can be analysed that issues are faced while providing protection to children from FGM. This is because children are dependent on their elders who force them to undergo this practice. Moreover, children represent a vulnerable group and cannot stand against the injustice being don to them. Therefore, the recommendation to raise community voices would involve strengthening the voices of children. Regarding this, the social workers should provide platforms to children where their voices are heard and necessary actions could be taken. This would help in protecting those children who are at risk of FGM (Braun, 2009). A helpline service can be set for children and they can be provided the helpline number by the teachers. This can be used by them to seek protection against this practice. With such services the children will be encouraged to raise their voices against female genital mutilation.
Various practical approaches can be adopted as implication for social work practice. A forum for learning and discussion regarding female genital mutilation can be offered by schools. This can be best done by creating an environment of trust, confidence and openness (Elmusharaf, Elhadi and Almroth, 2006). Social workers can carry out the work of bringing artists to schools who can provide positive role models. They can also provide the teachers with materials that can be integrated into the curricula of schools.
Sometimes, the situation is such that the family wants to protect their girl child against FGM, but cannot do so due to social pressures from community. In such cases, the social workers can work with the doctors to carry out the work of counselling. They can appoint child protection leads. When the doctor has a belief that a particular child in the community has risk of undergoing FGM, then he can act immediately with the help of social workers to protect the interests of child. Social workers along with the community doctors can involve the family members in discussions that relate to concerns regarding the practice of FGM (Mwenda, 2006). Through these discussions, agreement of the families can be sought to course of action against FGM. Social workers can provide better counselling to the parents wit the help of community doctors.
The issues that surround protection of children from FGM can be dealt if the communities take the lead. Collective decision making by the communities can go a long way in eradicating the evil practice of FGM. Rather, if the practising communities collectively decide to abandon female genital mutilation, then it may lead to rapid elimination of this practice. It can be analysed that considering the conventional nature of FGM, families find it difficult to abandon FGM in the absence of adequate support from wider community (Chibber, El-Saleh and El Harmi, 2011). In this regard, the social workers can design and implement programs which are led by communities. These programs can be such that they not only make then communities participate, but also guides them to define their problems and find solutions. These programs should be built on human rights and gender equality. Also, the social workers can ensure that these programs are non judgemental. This approach would help in generating a collective choice for abandoning female genital mutilation. The decision to abandon FGM would be collective as well as coordinated (Berg and Denison, 2012). Therefore, the families will have the confidence that FGM is being discarded by others also. However, this decision will only be effective if it is widespread. Here, social workers can play an active role in making its impact far-flung.
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