Doctors, nurses and teachers are still nervous of being branded racist if they speak to families about female genital mutilation, a leading researcher said.
Professor Hazel Barrett, an expert in FGM, has developed an app to give professionals the confidence to flag up their concerns if they think a girl is at risk of being cut. She said that despite campaigns, many professionals are still unaware of their legal responsibilities, nervous about how to broach the issue, and concerned about being called racist and rejected by communities they work with.
Professor Barrett, professor of development geography at Coventry University, said: “If they live within these communities or come from these communities they fear they might be stigmatised or rejected. She said: “We have made progress, certainly over the last three or four years, with more awareness training given to professionals. But there is still a long way to go.”
The Petals For Professionals app is aimed at teachers, nurses, social workers and police. It is designed to be a “one-stop shop” for information and advice about how to tackle FGM. Professor Barrett created a similar app for young people, called Petals.
The app will be officially launched on Monday in Westminster at an event attended by Baroness Featherstone, a campaigner on gender issues.
The Professionals app is being launched as the so-called “cutting season” approaches, when girls are most at risk. Many girls are flown abroad during the summer holidays to undergo FGM. It is a key time of year for teachers, nurses and social workers to be aware of the practice.
The app alerts them to some of the warning signs, which can include girls talking about going abroad for a large family party, or suddenly becoming more withdrawn and introverted.
Since the Serious Crime Act 2015 came into force healthcare professionals, social workers and teachers in England and Wales have been required by law to report to the police if they think a girl aged under 18 is at risk of FGM.
- Both apps are available at: petals.coventry.ac.uk/professionals