Female genital mutilation in children presenting to Australian paediatricians

Arch Dis Child doi:10.1136/archdischild-2016-311540

Abstract

Objective The WHO reports that female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is an ancient cultural practice prevalent in many countries. FGM/C has been reported among women resident in Australia. Our paper provides the first description of FGM/C in Australian children.

Design Cross-sectional survey conducted in April–June 2014.

Setting Paediatricians and other child health specialists recruited through the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit were asked to report children aged <18 years with FGM/C seen in the last 5 years, and to provide data for demographics, FGM/C type, complications and referral for each case.

Participants Of 1311 eligible paediatricians/child health specialists, 1003 (76.5%) responded.

Results Twenty-three (2.3%) respondents had seen 59 children with FGM/C and provided detailed data for 31. Most (89.7%) were identified during refugee screening and were born in Africa. Three (10.3%) were born in Australia: two had FGM/C in Australia and one in Indonesia. All parents were born overseas, mainly Africa (98.1%). Ten children had WHO FGM/C type I, five type II, five type III and six type IV. Complications in eight children included recurrent genitourinary infections, menstrual, sexual, fertility and psychological problems. Nineteen children (82.6%) were referred to obstetrics/gynaecology: 16 (69.9%) to social work and 13 (56.5%) to child protection.

Conclusions This study confirms that FGM/C is seen in paediatric clinical practice within Australia. Paediatricians need cultural awareness, education and resources to help them identify children with FGM/C and/or at risk of FGM/C, to enable appropriate referral and counselling of children, families and communities to assist in the prevention of this practice.

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