FGM in Ireland: 'Our suspicion is that it happens underground'

National Steering Committee on FGM calls for action after suspected case in Dublin last week

FGM in Ireland: 'Our suspicion is that it happens underground'

File photo: RollingNews.ie

Policy experts have called for a renewed drive to tackle female genital mutilation (FGM) in Ireland, following concerns that the painful procedure may have been carried out on a young girl in Dublin.

The National Steering Committee (NSC) on FGM, led by migrant network Akidwa, said greater resources were needed to improve awareness of legislation banning the practice.

It comes after a man in his 30s was arrested on Thursday evening in connection with the suspected assault.

Gardaí confirmed that the man was detained at Crumlin garda station but later released without charge.

Committee member Salome Mbugua, who is president of Akidwa, said FGM continues in communities across in Ireland despite being outlawed here since 2012.

A draft national action plan launched by the NSC in May 2016, which includes recommendations to prevent FGM and support survivors, is yet to be implemented, she said.

An estimated 3,780 women living in Ireland have been subjected to the procedure, which involves removing all or part of the external female genitalia, usually to minimise sexual desire.

Haemorrhaging, obstructed labour and infections such as HIV, tetanus and septicaemia are among the potential risks faced by those who are cut.

Dr Caroline Munyi of ActionAid told Newstalk.com that the practice is usually carried out in secret.

"Our suspicion has always been that FGM is happening underground," she said, pointing out that no one has ever been prosecuted over the crime in Ireland.

Recording of cases

Dr Munyi added that FGM does not have an Irish Crime Classification System (ICCS) code, meaning cases cannot be specifically recorded as such in crime figures.

"That is what members of steering committee are trying to push for, to have that code in place," she said.

The most recent estimate of the number of affected women in Ireland comes from a combination of 2011 census data, population figures and global prevalence numbers.

Even this, however, does not clarify what proportion were cut abroad.

Dr Munyi said those who are taken back to FGM-practising countries generally undergo the procedure during school holidays.

The majority of victims are between the ages of five and nine, though some women who have married into conservative communities are spared until after they give birth, she said.

The NSC has reminded members of the public that they can contact local child protection social worker at Tusla if they know at girl at risk of FGM. If a child is in immediate danger, people are advised to contact gardaí.

At least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM, according to Unicef.

Around half of those live in three countries - Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia.