Female Genital Cutting and Children's Rights: Implications for Social Work Practice
Female genital cutting (FGC) is an ancient practice that affects girls and young women around the world, defining the identity of women in cultures where it is practiced. FGC is carried out for a range of social and cultural reasons. The United Kingdom as a point of inward migration receives families from countries and cultures where FGC is the norm. Protecting children from FGC in the United Kingdom is addressed through legislation, policy and practice guidance implemented through multi-agency working together to safeguard children. Health, social services, schools and the police need to have a sound knowledge base about FGC in order to ensure the safety of children within their social environment. It is argued that FGC is a children's rights issue, as well as a women's rights issue, because it infringes the right of the child to bodily integrity and to be safe from harm. Professionals should be aware of the importance of their role in proactively preventing this irreversible procedure to which children cannot consent. The concept of social construction of identity is discussed in order to analyse the importance of FGC in cultures where it is part of a tradition and to contribute to strategies to end the practice.
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