FGM in the UK: What can a Systems Thinking approach add to our understanding?

Mother and daughter holding hands

Female genital mutilation or cutting (FMG/C) is a complex phenomenon. It includes a range of practices which vary in degree from nicking or piercing to infibulation. It is currently outlawed in most countries affected by its practice, including Western countries with significant migrant populations. Although in decline, the practice still exists.

Attitudes towards FGM/C vary between and within cultures. Some see it as necessary for the good of the child, while others see it as an extreme form of child abuse.

FGM/C as a culturally normative practice usually occurs in the context of a loving and supportive family, aiming for the best outcomes for their daughters. This complexity is often overlooked in policies and approaches designed to end the practice.

In Western countries, while FGM/C is punished, various forms of elective female genital cosmetic surgery FGCS are tolerated and even seen as acceptable. These procedures are anatomically similar or identical to those proscribed as FGM/C.

This cultural context raises a number of key questions. Do the current policies on FGM/C address the drivers for FGM/C, especially in diaspora? Do they have unintended consequences? How can unintended consequences be minimised and abandonment of FGM/C leveraged?

This research will take a Systems Thinking approach to explore these questions using stakeholder interviews and causal loop diagramming.


Elizabeth Inyang (PhD researcher)
Kirstin Mitchell (PhD supervisor)
Laurence Moore (PhD supervisor)

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