Stage 1: Framing
Results of framing exercise
As part of the Scottish Government's approach to tackling FGM, the Programme for Government 2018-19 contained a commitment to introduce a Bill strengthening the existing legislative framework for the protection of women and girls from FGM. Programme for Government indicated that the Bill will seek to introduce protection orders for women and girls at risk, and place guidance for professionals on a statutory footing.
In 2014, the Scottish Government commissioned a report from the Scottish Refugee Council entitled 'Tackling FGM in Scotland: A Scottish Model of Intervention.' Upon reading this report, it is clear that more consideration is needed on the ways in which FGM affects each protected characteristic. Subsequently, it is important to then consider how new policy and legislation in this area may impact different protected characteristics.
In relation to potential impacts on protected characteristics, there is clear evidence in most cases why this needs to be considered in this assessment.
- Age – FGM is predominantly carried out on young girls
- Race – Although FGM is not exclusive to any particular race, in 2013 UNICEF published a list of 29 countries that practice FGM. These are predominantly in Africa and the Middle East. There is concern that any work on new legal provisions on FGM could potentially increase stigmatisation of certain ethnic minorities.
- Religion and belief – The practice of FGM is founded on cultural beliefs, not religious beliefs. Nevertheless members of potentially affected communities may believe that it is a religious requirement.
- Sex – FGM is practiced on women and girls.
- Pregnancy and Maternity – FGM has the potential to create serious complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Furthermore there needs to be consideration of the protection of baby girls from the practice.
- Disability – There is no direct correlation between disability and FGM, but disabled women and girls are still victims of this practice.
- Gender reassignment – There is no direct correlation between gender reassignment and FGM.
- Sexual orientation – Although there is a lack of evidence in this area, it is worth noting FGM as it relates to sexual orientation. Those who practice FGM justify it with references to various socio-cultural factors. Other common justifications for FGM are closely linked to fixed gender roles and perceptions of women and girls as gatekeepers of their family's honour. This, in many cases, directly relates to strict expectations regarding women's sexual "purity" and lack of desire. In some societies, the prevailing myth is that girls' sexual desires must be controlled early to prevent "deviant" sexual behaviour. This "deviant" behaviour could also refer to lesbian or bisexual women as the cultures in which FGM is commonly practiced are often homophobic as well. Therefore it could be argued that on some level, and in some cases, FGM can be constituted as a homophobic practice.
In short, although this new legislation seeks to create further protection for women and girls who may be at risk of FGM, it also has some potential to intersect with most protected characteristics.
We have a reasonable amount of information related to all protected characteristics as they relate to FGM, although some areas are more limited than others. For example, there is less data available on pregnancy and maternity and FGM.
Extent/Level of EQIA required
As a result of the framing exercise, a full EQIA was carried out.