To what extent do teachers understand their legal responsibilities where girls have undergone or are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM)?

Claire Bessant*, Lauren Clayton-Helm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Worldwide, 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) (UNICEF, 2023). In the UK, where it is estimated that 65,000 girls under 13 are at risk of FGM (Bindel, 2014), various measures have been implemented to respond to this important human rights issue. It is an offence: to commit FGM; to fail to protect a girl from the risk of FGM; or to assist someone outside the UK in committing FGM (Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, s1-3A). Courts in England and Wales may make an FGM protection order (FGMA 2003, s5A). Individuals employed in regulated professions in England and Wales (including healthcare professionals and teachers) must notify the police if, in the course of their work, they identify that FGM appears to have been carried out on a minor girl (FGMA 2003, s5B).
Questions nonetheless continue to be asked about the law’s effectiveness. This paper draws upon Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model (1974, 1995), asking whether the stakeholders involved in the complex FGM prevention ecosystem (teachers, healthcare professionals, parents, local authorities, police) understand and are thus able to comply with their legal responsibilities. It reports on a small-scale study conducted in 2023 in three Northeast schools. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty-one individuals (teachers and teaching assistants) to explore whether they understood their legal responsibilities and their own and others’ roles in relation to prevention and punishment of FGM. Initial findings suggest more could be done to develop teachers’ understanding of FGM and of their legal responsibilities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 29 Jan 2024
EventSocio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference 2024 - University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Mar 202428 Mar 2024


ConferenceSocio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference 2024
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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