The University College Hospital clinic, initially to be held once a
month while demand is assessed, will offer medical treatment and
psychological help to girls up to 18, who have suffered or may be at
risk of FGM - a ritual usually involving the partial or total
removal of external genitalia. In its most extreme form the vaginal
opening is also sewn up.
Gynaecologist Sarah Creighton and paediatrician Deborah Hodes
decided to set up the clinic after noticing an increase in young
patients with suspected FGM.
The clinic will liaise closely with police, social care and
community groups and will provide evidence and expert witness
statements for court cases. It will also help identify and protect
girls at risk.
"If a girl is found to have FGM clearly her sisters may also have
had it done and they also then need to be seen by us," Creighton
told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"And it may be that some younger sisters can be protected... It's
not just treating girls that have had it done, it's protecting other
family members against FGM, which I think is really important."
About 60,000 girls under 14 years old, who were born in England and
Wales, may be at risk of FGM or have already been cut, according to
estimates released in July by rights group Equality Now and City
FGM, which is against the law in Britain, is considered an important
practice by some communities including Somalis, Eritreans, Sudanese
and Egyptians, but it can have devastating physical and
Until now, children have been seen in adult clinics or not at all.
Creighton said although many cities had good FGM clinics it was not
appropriate for children to be treated in adult clinics. The
children's clinic will have a play therapist and child
psychotherapist. Girls needing surgery will be treated in a
Creighton said she hoped the clinic would be used as a blueprint for
similar services across the country. Referrals could come through
police, social services, doctors or schools.
[to top of second column]
YOUNGER AND HARDER TO DETECT
FGM causes a host of problems including chronic pain, infections and
menstrual difficulties. Later in life it can affect fertility and
increase risks during pregnancy and childbirth. Psychological
problems can include flashbacks, depression and post-traumatic
Creighton, who has been working on FGM for 20 years, said data
collected by the clinic would give a clearer picture of changing
Experts believe parents are having their daughters cut at an
increasingly young age to avoid the risk of them alerting teachers
or doctors. There are also indications that some parents are moving
towards less invasive types of FGM – such as nicking the clitoris.
These procedures are harder to detect but still illegal.
A parliamentary report this year said Britain's failure to tackle
FGM was a "national scandal". Prime Minister David Cameron hosted an
international FGM summit in July, calling on nations to end the
"preventable evil" within a generation.
(Reporting by Emma Batha. Editing by Alisa Tang.)
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