UKIP’s call for mandatory FGM examinations violate patient rights

Mandatory medical checks for schoolgirls at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) were announced today as UKIP kicked off their general election campaign.

Announced as part of their so-called integration agenda, the checks would be implemented annually and whenever girls returned from trips overseas. The idea of mandatory checks have been raised in the past by Diane Abbott MP, Shadow Home Secretary and Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, ex-commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

FGM is the ritual removal of all, or some, of the female external genitalia. It has been illegal in the UK since 1985. Since 2014, the NHS has had to report all cases of FGM to the Department of Health. Despite this, no one has ever been found.

UKIP’s policy would potentially violate current medical ethics guidance which says children and young people, or their parents, must consent to all intimate examinations. It could also fail to meet the General Medical Council’s guidance on good medical practice by failing to respect patients dignity and privacy.

Mandatory FGM checks are performed in France, but both MPs and health professionals have ruled against them in the UK. The Royal College of GPs warned it could ‘alienate hard-to-reach communities and individuals‘, and traumatize girls with mandatory examinations. The Home Affairs Committee, chaired by influential MP Keith Vaz, described mandatory examinations as ‘a disproportionate response‘.

Editors Opinion – ‘Selfish and overwhelmingly stupid’

There is no doubt that Female Genital Mutilation is a serious problem. As well as physically and emotionally scarring, the societal and cultural leanings that lead to it are incredibly complex. A ‘one size fits all’ solution to an endemic problem never works. To truly tackle such a problem we must better understand the psychology behind it, provide education and tackle practice on a ground level. This means engaging a community through dialogue as well as cracking down through legal pathways.

UKIPs most recent policy is simply an extension of their trademark didactic style. The problem is presented as ‘black and white’, with a simple solution. A mandatory examination will not pick up all cases, it will drive current practice further underground, alienate those being examined and break trust in the medical system. Trust in the medical system is integral to any co-ordinated effort to reduce FGM, grassroots or national. UKIP’s policy endangers the very foundations of any success. By forcing young girls to undergo examination UKIP will make the problem worse.

It is hard for me to separate UKIP’s most recent announcement from their background of sensationalism. As well as seemingly misunderstanding the problem, they have jumped in with a callous and cavalier ‘solution’. They wish to sound ‘in control’ and ‘powerful’, exactly what a party struggling to find purchase would need the most. UKIP has confused the health rights of young women with their own political aspirations, a selfish and overwhelmingly stupid move.

Whatever the solution to FGM is, this is not the answer.

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Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his/her affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing.  All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of sample surveyed. Online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice.

Sources and Further Reading

Educational links

  1. What is FGM? – An explanation from NHS Choices
  2. How can I help stop FGM? – Forward UK, an anti-FGM charity, have many ways you can help

Fefeatured picture credit to Rufai Ajala

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