Scottish Government considers Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to be an unacceptable and illegal practice, a form of abuse and a violation of the human rights of women and girls. It reflects deep‑rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls.
It is a specific form of violence against women, as embedded in Equally Safe - Scotland's Strategy to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women - under the guise of culture and religion. The wellbeing of women and girls is a key priority for the Scottish Government and preventing and eradicating Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) rightly must be part of that key priority.
The World Health Organisation estimates that between 120 million and 140 million women from 29 countries worldwide have been affected by FGM and that every year another three million girls become at risk of the procedure, which partially or wholly removes or injures their genitalia, for non-medical reasons.
There are no quick fixes to tackling FGM: it is a complex and hidden issue, and there is no single solution to ending the practice. Communities and individuals affected by FGM must be at the heart of work to effect significant social, cultural and attitudinal change over the long term; change that calls for the sustained commitment of a wide range of partners. If we are to banish FGM to history we need to understand why practising communities sustain traditions that are so unacceptable, and therefore how we discuss FGM is important. We must not tolerate FGM but, equally we must be conscious of how we engage and work with communities on these sensitive issues.
We are committed to taking forward all appropriate action that can help prevent this abuse arising, and to support women and girls in our communities who are survivors of FGM. This will include: working with communities to support attitudinal change; providing information to those at risk to help them understand that FGM is illegal; providing information, guidance and training to both the statutory and third sector; strengthening the law to extend protection to those at risk and to hold those who choose to perpetrate this abuse to account.
I am therefore pleased to publish Scotland's National Action Plan to Tackle Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) 2016-2020. It represents a comprehensive and ambitious plan for addressing this complex and often hidden abuse. It builds on work that has been happening across Scotland, bringing together best practice alongside our national plan, and will help us ensure that we are taking the necessary steps to put our commitment to protecting girls and women from harm into practice.
Importantly, this is Scotland's plan. The protection of girls and women from abuse and the prevention and eradication of FGM is the responsibility of all those in society, including the Scottish Government, Police Scotland, NHS, local authorities, third sector organisations, communities and families, and requires leadership across all relevant sectors. Similarly, the actions in this plan belong to a wide range of organisations and stakeholders. Our girls and women in communities across Scotland deserve no less than a full and collective commitment to delivering this action plan.
This action plan is a milestone in our journey to tackling FGM and all forms of gender-based abuse, not a conclusion. The Scottish Government has already implemented a range of work with partners to tackle FGM. We will continue to work in collaboration with our stakeholders to ensure that the National Action Plan is implemented and further advances the progress already made.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank those across all sectors who have worked so well in partnership with the Scottish Government to develop this plan. Their commitment and expertise have proven invaluable to its development - and will be essential to its success. By acting together, we can make our crucial contribution to the global aim to end FGM within a generation.
Cabinet Secretary For Social Justice,
Communities and Pensioners' Rights