Falling Between the Cracks : Contradictions in Approaches to Protecting Girls and Women from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Scotland

Käkelä, Emmaleena and Likonde, Dinna and Nimyel, Adebolaji and Gitteh, Fatou Cham and Salim, Lubna and Sillah, Adama (2021) Falling Between the Cracks : Contradictions in Approaches to Protecting Girls and Women from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Scotland. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

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Over the last decade, ending female genital mutilation (FGM) has become a key policy priority in Scotland and across the UK. Although there has been a strong emphasis on community engagement in policy, we know little about FGM-affected women’s views on the legislative changes and new measures which have been introduced to tackle FGM in Scotland. This report is based on a participatory doctoral research conducted in collaboration with Glasgow Saheliya Champions for Change group between 2018 and 2021. The Champions have participated in the project as Community Advisers, contributing to refining the focus of the project, piloting the data collection methods and interpreting the findings. This collaborative partnership has been a key to ensuring the relevance of this project to FGM-affected women and communities. The project has explored how cultural values, norms and practices are influenced by migration to Scotland. We have been interested in understanding how migration and resettlement influence identity, family relationships, gender roles and women’s vulnerability to female genital mutilation (FGM). In gathering the views and experiences of FGM-affected women, community members and key informants, this project aims to support policymakers and services to address the needs of women and wider communities more effectively and sensitively. This report specifically focuses on FGM-affected women’s experiences of immigration control and child protection, an area which the women themselves have identified as a key issue affecting their lives. It has been five years since Scotland introduced the National Action Plan to End FGM which outlines actions to strengthen FGM prevention, protection and provision of support services for women and girls (Scottish Government, 2016). This report encourages decisionmakers and practitioners to reflect FGM-affected women’s barriers to protection and engagement with immigration control and statutory services, including health, police and social work. We believe that FGM-affected women’s experiences and views should be placed at the heart of future developments in designing legislation, services and safeguarding procedures. With this report, we want to raise awareness about how women are falling between the cracks of different policies and professional practices which are intended to protect women and girls from FGM. At the end of this report, we outline key recommendations for policymakers and service providers to strengthen FGM prevention and engagement with FGM-affected women and communities.