Perception and barriers: reporting female genital mutilation

Date08 October 2018
Published date08 October 2018
AuthorGeetanjali Gangoli,Aisha Gill,Natasha Mulvihill,Marianne Hester
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Aggression, conflict & peace,Sociology,Gender studies,Gender violence,Political sociology, policy & social change,Social conflicts,War/peace
Perception and barriers: reporting female
genital mutilation
Geetanjali Gangoli, Aisha Gill, Natasha Mulvihill and Marianne Hester
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore the perceptions of and barriers to reporting female genital
mutilation (FGM) by victims and survivors of FGM to the police in England and Wales.
Design/methodology/approach The paper is based on 14 interviews conducted with adult
survivors and victims of FGM. A combination of 1:1 and group interviews were used, based on the
preference of the respondents. Respondents were recruited in collaboration with specialist
non-governmental organisations and major stakeholders in the area of honour-based violence and black
and minority ethnic comm unities.
Findings A key finding in this research was that all victims/survivors the authors interviewed stated that
they did not support the practice of FGM, and that they would not follow it for younger women in their own
family. Second, the authors found that none of the respondents had reported their experience to the police.
Third, they identified key barriers to reporting, which included: their belief that reporting their own
experience would not serve any purpose because they had experienced FGM as children, and in another
country; and that they did not feel able to report new incidents of FGM in the community because of a lack
of trust in the police due t o previous negative expe riences. Finally, they believed that FGM could be
prevented only by work within the community, and not through engagement with the criminal
justice system.
Originality/value This is, to our knowledge, one of the first papers that is based on victims and survivors
perceptions that explores barriers to reporting cases of FGM to the police, and offers levers for change.
Keywords Police, Female genital mutilation, England and Wales, Experiences and perceptions,
Honour-based violence, Victims/survivors
Paper type Research paper
This paper explores the perceptions of victim-survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM) living in
the UK towards reporting their experience to the police in England and Wales. FGM has been
illegal in the UK since the mid-1980s and this includes cases where the procedure may have
taken place outside the UK. However, to date, there have been no successful convictions.
Drawing on interviews with 14 adult women, we consider what the experience of FGM means to
victim-survivors who are living in England and Wales, and who have experienced FGM as a child
overseas; how they understand the impact of criminalisation of FGM, whether and how they
would seek justice for what happened; and how they believe the police (and policymakers) could
best engage with communities on this issue.
FGM is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2008) as follows:
FGM comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other
injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, with an increasing severity from partial
clitoridectomy to removal and appositioning of the labia minora and/or majora, or other ways of
damaging female genitals through e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.
Received 28 September 2017
Revised 4 January 2018
Accepted 7 January 2018
© Geetanjali Gangoli, Aisha Gill,
Natasha Mulvihill and
Marianne Hester. Published by
Emerald Publishing Limited. This
article is published under the
Creative Commons Attribution
(CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may
reproduce, distribute, translate and
create derivative works of this article
(for both commercial and non-
commercial purposes), subject to full
attribution to the original publication
and authors. The full terms of this
licence may be seen at http://
This work was commissioned and
funded by Her Majestys
Inspectorate of Constabulary
(HMIC). On 19 July 2017, HMIC
took additional responsibility for fire
and rescue service inspections and
was renamed HM Inspectorate of
Constabulary and Fire & Rescue
Services (HMICFRS). We refer to
HMICin this report since the work
relates to 2015, prior to the change
of name. The analysis within this
paper was also informed by work
undertaken as part of the Justice,
Inequality and GBV project (ESRC
grant number ES/M010090/1). The
authors finally wish to acknowledge
and offer thanks for the interview
and transcription work carried out
by Dr Andrea Matolcsi, Dr Lis Bates,
Sarah-Jane Walker, and Kurda Yar.
Geetanjali Gangoli is Senior
Lecturer at the School for
Policy Studies, University of
Bristol, Bristol, UK.
Aisha Gill is Professor of
Criminology at the Department
of Social Sciences, University of
Roehampton, London, UK.
Natasha Mulvihill is Lecturer
and Marianne Hester is
Professor, both at the School
for Policy Studies, University of
Bristol, Bristol, UK.
DOI 10.1108/JACPR-09-2017-0323 VOL. 10 NO. 4 2018, pp. 251-260, Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599

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