Children to be taught dangers of female genital mutilation

FGM campaigner Nimco Ali: ‘We need to empower young people with the knowledge that they have the right to be safe’
FGM campaigner Nimco Ali: ‘We need to empower young people with the knowledge that they have the right to be safe.’ Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images

The dangers of female genital mutilation will be taught to all secondary school pupils in England from 2020 as part of a bold shake-up of relationships and sex education.

New proposals will be presented to parliament on Monday which would see the curriculum reformed to include relationship education for primary age pupils and health education for pupils of all ages in state-funded schools. Secondary school pupils will also be taught about grooming, forced marriage and domestic abuse.

The new guidance stipulates that secondary schools should also address the physical and emotional damage caused by FGM, raise awareness of support available, and ensure that pupils know FGM is against the law.

Education secretary Damian Hinds said: “We know the catastrophic effect on the lives of those affected, causing lifelong physical and psychological damage. Our reforms to relationships and sex education will ensure young people are taught in an age-appropriate way about different forms of abuse and their rights under the law, to equip them with the knowledge they need to keep themselves and others safe.”

According to the NSPCC, an estimated 137,000 women and girls are affected by FGM in England and Wales. Since July 2015, 205 protection orders have been made to safeguard people at risk – for example by stopping them being taken abroad to be cut. Earlier this month, the mother of a three-year-old girl from east London became the first person to be found guilty of FGM in the UK.

Campaigner Nimco Ali, who is the director of the charity Daughters of Eve, said: “Education is the key to ending FGM. We need to empower young people with the knowledge not only to know what is right and wrong, but the rights they have to be safe.

“As a child I had no idea FGM was illegal, I just knew it was painful. It took me years to piece together what happened to me and why I felt the way I did about it.

“Had I been given the education now being introduced, I would have been able to support those in my family to understand, and prevent other girls from being cut.”