In 2017, the Scottish Government published multi-agency guidance in relation to FGM. The Scottish Government is minded to make provision for Scottish Ministers to issue statutory guidance about the effect of any provisions of this Bill, any provisions of the 2005 Act or about any matter relating to FGM. The purpose and content of the guidance would be similar to that published in November 2017, but by placing it on this particular form of statutory footing we believe that it will better ensure that public bodies work effectively together to ensure that women and girls are protected.
Question 8. Do you agree that the Scottish Government should issue statutory guidance for professionals in relation to female genital mutilation? Please explain your answer.
If yes, please outline these arguments.
Question 9: Using existing non-statutory guidance as a basis, what should be covered by statutory guidance?
Should Guidance by Introduced?
There was widespread support for the introduction of statutory guidance on FGM among respondents. The key benefits of guidance were perceived to be:
- Ensuring that there is widespread knowledge about the subject, which would reduce regional variations.
- Ensuring a shared national approach among professional bodies.
- Improving inter-agency collaboration and potentially reducing regional differences in responses.
While there were limited objections to the introduction of statutory guidance, the point was raised some important guidance was non-statutory and that this had not necessarily limited its application or utility. Another respondent made the point that there was limited evidence of FGM in Scotland and that further legislation was therefore unnecessary.
It was also emphasised that ensuring accountability in the use of this guidance was important. Several respondents emphasised the merits of the existing guidance and suggested that future guidance should be based on what had been done already.
What should be covered by Statutory Guidance?
A wide range of potential objectives are mentioned here, including:
- How to identify, engage with and support those who have been subject to FGM or are at risk of FGM.
- Clarification of the legal situation.
- Referral pathways for reporting instances of FGM.
- The need for healthcare workers to share information about significant concerns.
- Detailed direction and responsibility to ensure that questions are not dodged in relation to a difficult and relatively ‘new’ situation.
- Accountability to ensure everyone fulfils their responsibilities.
- Cultural sensitivity with a view to effecting cultural change, along with clarification around cultural norms and how to respond to them.
- Available resources, including professional support and where to direct potential victims.
- Information sharing requirements, multi-agency working and joint responsibilities.
- Grounds for referral to the Children’s Hearings System similar to those for forced marriage in the 2011 Act.
- Definitions around FGM, as well as information about the dangers and risks of the practice.
- Data collection mechanisms.
- Linkage with other issues such as domestic abuse, forced marriage and the Equally Safe National Strategy.
- Information about processes, including timescales and thresholds.
- Guidance around risk assessments.
- Clarity concerning the situation of 17 and 18 year olds who are not covered by child protection rules.
- Establishing FGM indicators for ongoing monitoring.
Another respondent suggested locating the guidance within the broader guidance on gender-based violence, given the broader connections of this with FGM.