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Online course to stop female genital mutilation

Published: 23 Jun 2014 17:07 GMT+02:00

Last year the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs (Socialdepartementet) assigned Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) the task of increasing competence about female genital mutilation (FGM) in the healthcare field.  

"The phenomenon is increasing in Sweden, due to increased immigration," Vanja Berggren, associate professor of public health science, told newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN). "It's important that all agencies are educated on the matter."
 
The health board hopes to do so with an online course intended to educate healthcare personnel on how to identify and prevent FGM. 
 
The first portion of the web-based training course will be completed later this year, and a more thorough version will be ready in spring of 2015. 

"We hope that several city councils take it on directly," Malin Ahrne, project leader of the assignment, told DN. "We will be pilot-testing the course in a couple of places this autumn."

The first challenge is to identify and take care of those who have already been subjected to the procedure. Women who have been through the most extreme forms of FGM, where the clitoris and labia are entirely removed and the genital opening is sewn together, can have difficulty giving birth or even urinating.

But it is also key to prevent girls from being exposed in the first place. 

"When dealing with small children it is necessary to create a dialogue with the family, to inform them that cutting is illegal and that medical complications may arise," Ahrne said.

Ahrne added that the majority of the victims had the procedure done before coming to Sweden, but it does occur that girls are cut while visiting their parents' home countries.

"We do not have any indication that cutting is performed in Sweden, but it is still possible."

Last week an investigation in Norrköping, eastern Sweden, revealed that an entire class of school girls had been subject to the operation. The report ignited a media storm, and the county administrative board has decided to take similar measures to the health board, producing an online guide for school personnel.

The health board is also in the middle of an investigation into how many women in Sweden have been subjected to FGM. The board hopes to have an estimate in September.

Estimates from 2012 suggest there are around 42,00 women and girls in Sweden who have undergone the procedure. Approximately 7,000 of them are under the age of ten. The numbers were drawn from calculations in 2012 based on how many women have origins in countries where at least half of the female population have been mutilated.

The Local/sr (news@thelocal.se)

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