Featured News Female genital mutilation victim care can be improved

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Fri, 17 Dec 2021

Female genital mutilation victim care can be improved

Image: Volkan Olmez

Researchers have found the care of more than 50,000 Australian women thought to have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) could be improved with the adoption of some simple measures.

JCU PhD candidate Abdul-Aziz Seidu was part of a team that examined treatment pathways available to women in Australia who had been subject to FGM. He said the practice is common in more than 90 countries worldwide.

“Globally, UNICEF estimates more than 200 million girls and women have undergone some form of FGM. The prevalence among Australian women is not known, but it’s estimated 53,000 females born elsewhere and living in Australia have undergone FGM,” said Mr Seidu.

He said the practice of FGM has vast negative health impacts, with a lengthy list of short-term effects and long-term consequences including gynaecological, birthing, sexual and psychological complications.

“The study found clinicians encounter FGM‐related complications including ruptured bladders and total urinary incontinence. Midwives and paediatricians use their discretion to refer such cases to social work departments, obstetric/gynaecological units, child protection service providers, psychological counsellors and surgeons.

“But in general, the continuum of care for women and girls with FGM is characterised by inadequate and unclear referral pathways. The evidence shows that health systems face challenges responding to these impacts due to limited infrastructural or skills capacity - necessitating referrals,” said Mr Seidu.

He said this underscores the need to develop and strengthen referral pathways.

“As more women with FGM settle in Australia, clinicians are more likely to see those with adverse obstetric outcomes from the procedure,” said Mr Seidu.

He said the team is calling for referral systems to be efficient, effective and seamless, with community engagement and capacity building of health care providers required and a database with detailed information of all possible institutions and professionals to refer to as a critical part.

“Improved resources and an effective dissemination plan are vital to ensure the referral pathway’s implementation and adherence. There is a relatively simple way, right now, to enhance and improve FGM safeguarding and early intervention services for girls and women and improve the care they get once they have been subject to it.”


Abdul-Aziz Seidu (JCU)
E: abdulaziz.seidu@my.jcu.edu.au

Carolyne Njue (University of Technology Sydney)
E. carolyne.njue@uts.edu.au