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ALL WALES PRACTICE GUIDE

Safeguarding children from harmful practices related to tradition, culture, religion or superstition

To be used in conjunction with the Wales Safeguarding Procedures

Who is this practice guide for?

This guide is primarily for practitioners working with children (up to the age of 18).

This includes those working in early years, social care, education, health, the police, youth offending and youth, community and family support services (including the third sector) and foster care and residential care.

What is this guide for?

Safeguarding children is a responsibility shared by everyone in contact with children.

The Wales Safeguarding Procedures support individuals and agencies across Wales to understand their roles and responsibilities in keeping children and adults safe. They support a consistent approach to safeguarding practice and procedures.

This practice guide provides additional information about safeguarding children from harmful practices related to tradition, culture, religion or superstition. It should be used in conjunction with the Wales Safeguarding Procedures.

Effective safeguarding arrangements in every local authority area should be underpinned by two key principles:

There are some issues which are common across safeguarding practice guides and some which are specific to the safeguarding issue being considered:

Culture

When thinking about safeguarding children from abuse related to tradition, culture, religion or superstition, it is important to have some understanding of how culture and tradition influence specific behaviours and practices. Whether people live in established communities or are newly arrived in Wales, maintaining their home traditions, culture and religion is rightly important and families will often wish to pass these values onto their children. Within this context it should be remembered that child abuse is never acceptable in any community, in any culture, in any religion, under any circumstances.

The concept of ‘honour’ is a deeply held belief within many families and communities and those who are perceived to dishonour their family or community by their behaviour can be subject to abuse, emotional abuse and death.

These ‘honour’ codes are evident across countries, cultures and religions. The term ‘honour based abuse’ is contentious – there is no honour in the commission of murder, rape, kidnap and other violent acts, behaviour and conduct that make up ‘abuse in the name of honour’. However, it has been recognised that the term is understood and used globally, including in conventions such as the United Nations Convention the Rights of the Child.

The International NCO Council on Violence against Children has published a report on Violating Children's Rights: Harmful practices based on tradition, culture, religion or superstition which provides more information.

What is ‘Honour’ Based Abuse?

‘Honour’ crime involves abuse and/or violence, including murder, committed by people who want to defend the reputation of their family or community. It can also take the forms of intimidation, coercive control or blackmail. Honour killing is the murder of a person accused of "bringing shame" upon their family. Actions taken by family which may be believed by them to restore honour can include:

Where the person who is subject to or at risk of ‘Honour’ Based Abuse is a chid (under 18 years of age) they must be considered as a Child at Risk under the Social Service and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.

Why does it happen?

In many instances, the crimes are committed by family members against a female relative and this may include a girl under the age of 18 years. However, it is important to remember that while less common, males can also be victims and this may include a boy under the age of 18 years. Victims have been attacked or killed, suffer emotional or psychological abuse for behaviours which conflict with the family or community’s expectations, for example:

In cases of HBA concerning a child under the age of 18, consideration should be given as to whether it is safe to speak to the child’s parents/carers. Involving the family or community may increase the risk of significant harm to the child. The family may deny the allegations and in some cases may also attempt to take the child out of the country.

Forced Marriage

Some of the indicators related to risk of Forced Marriage for children

This is not an exhaustive list but these are signs that practitioners should be aware of and together they may build a picture to suggest that a child is at risk.

Education:

Family History:

Health:

Police involvement:

Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO)

In 2007, the UK Government brought in Forced Marriage Civil Protection Orders through the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act, 2007. Under this Act, a person threatened with forced marriage can apply to court for a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) which can contain whatever provisions the court finds would be appropriate to prevent the forced marriage from taking place, or to protect a victim of forced marriage from its effects, and may include such measures as confiscation of a passport or restrictions on contact with the victim.

Any person threatened with forced marriage can apply or any practitioner can apply for an FMPO, on their behalf.

The Forced Marriage Unit are the primary source of help and guidance for forced marriage victims, potential victims and those people who may come into contact with them.

Forced Marriage Unit Helpline: 020 7008 0151

Where the person who is subject to or at risk of Forced Marriage is a child (under 18 years of age) they must be considered as a Child at Risk under the Social Service and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.

Rubie's Story is a short video by a survivor of forced marriage.

Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation is also known as Female Circumcision or Female Genital Cutting (FGC) and is a traditional cultural practice. The procedure causes severe short and long term health consequences, including difficulties with childbirth, causing danger to the mother and child and mental health problems.

Some of the indicators related to risk of FGM for children

This is not an exhaustive list but these are signs that practitioners should be aware of and together they may build a picture to suggest that a child is at risk.

Other things to consider include:

A girl who has undergone FGM may:

The Female Genital Mutilation Act (2003) made FGM a criminal offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland has its own law on FGM); to perform FGM either inside the UK or to take a girl abroad to have it performed. The law was amended by the Serious Crime Act (2015), which added extra powers to the 2003 law, these include:

The Home Office has produced a FGM protection orders: factsheet (PDF).

For health practitioners, the Public Health Wales- All Wales Clinical Pathway on FGM states that if a practitioner is concerned that a child (under 18) may have undergone FGM, or a child tells them, they must ensure safeguarding procedures are followed and inform their local Safeguarding lead of the case. This Clinical Pathway should be completed every time a new case of FGM is identified or suspected, in both women and girls of any age, including a disclosure by a parent or carer. Mandatory reporting should be in collaboration with the completion of this pathway.

Where the person who is subject to or at risk of FGM is a child (under 18 years of age) they must be considered as a Child at Risk under the Social Service and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.

Any practitioner can also contact the national NSPCC FGM helpline for advice: National NSPCC FGM Helpline: 0800 028 3550 Email: help@nspcc.org.uk.

Breast ironing/flattening

Professionals working with children and young people must be able to identify the signs and symptoms of girls who are at risk of or have undergone breast ironing or flattening. As with Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), breast ironing or flattening is classified as physical abuse. There is no specific law banning breast ironing in the UK and no-one has ever been prosecuted for carrying out the practice. However, offenders can be prosecuted for a range of crimes, including common assault, child cruelty and grievous bodily harm.

What is breast ironing/flattening?

Breast flattening, also known as breast ironing, is the process during which young pubescent girls’ breasts are ironed, massaged, flattened and/or pounded down over a period of time (sometimes years) in order for the breasts to disappear or delay the development of the breasts entirely.

In some families, large stones, a hammer or spatula that has been heated over scorching coals can be used to compress the breast tissue. Other families may opt to use an elastic belt or binder to press the breasts so as to prevent them from growing.

Breast flattening usually starts with the first signs of puberty, which can be as young as nine years old and is usually carried out by female relatives who may believe that this will protect her from sexual harassment.

As well as extreme pain and psychological damage, the practice puts the young women at increased risk of developing cysts, infections and even cancer.

It should also be acknowledged that some adolescent girls and boys may choose to bind their breast using constrictive material due to gender transformation or identity, and this may also cause health problems.

Child Abuse linked to faith or belief (CALFB)

Child abuse or neglect linked to faith or belief is not confined to one faith, nationality, ethnic group or community. Not all with such a belief go on to harm children. However, some beliefs and superstitions can and have resulted in the abuse of children.

There are a number factors associated with children being targeted for abuse linked to faith, superstitious or belief4:

Some of the indicators related to risk of Child Abuse linked to faith or belief (CALFB)

This is not an exhaustive list but these are signs that practitioners should be aware of and together they may build a picture to suggest that a child is at risk.

Where the person who is subject to or at risk of abuse linked to faith or belief is a child (under 18 years of age) they must be considered as a Child at Risk under the Social Service and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.

A proportionate response

When a child has been reported under section 130, the local authority must consider whether there are grounds for carrying out an investigation under section 47 of the Children Act 1989.

Appendices

These organisations are there for all children and young people in Wales. Practitioners should let children know about these organisations and how to contact them.

Meic is the helpline service for children and young people up to the age of 25 in Wales. From finding out what’s going on in your local area to help dealing with a tricky situation, Meic will listen even when no-one else will. They won’t judge you and will help by giving you information, useful advice and the support you need to make a change. You can:

You can contact the Children's Commissioner for Wales Investigation and Advice service which is free and confidential. It’s there as a source of help and support if children and young people or those who care for them feel that a child’s been treated unfairly. You or you parent/carer can:

Childline is a free, private and confidential service where anyone under 19 can access support and advice. The Childline website www.childline.org.uk has information and advice pages as well as tools to help you work through problems yourself. If you want to talk or chat to Childline you can:

If you want to talk to Childline in Welsh see www.childline.org.uk/get-support/

Resources

Live Fear Free

Information on support is available at Live Fear Free . Live Fear Free Helpline: 0808 8010 800. Text service: 078600 77333 Email: info@livefearfreehelpline.wales.

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU)

The Forced Marriage Unit is a joint Home Office and Foreign & Commonwealth Office Unit. It operates both inside the UK, where support is provided to any individual, and overseas, where consular assistance is provided to British nationals, including dual nationals. The FMU operates a public helpline to provide advice and support to victims of forced marriage as well as to professionals dealing with cases. The assistance provided ranges from simple safety advice, through to aiding a victim to prevent their unwanted spouse moving to the UK (‘reluctant sponsor’ cases), and in extreme circumstances, the rescue of victims held against their will overseas.

The FMU are the primary source of help and guidance for forced marriage victims, potential victims and those people who may come into contact with them.

Karma Nirvana – advice and help line 0800 5999247

The Henna Foundation is a third sector registered charity, committed to strengthening families within the Muslim Community. The Foundation works nationally and internationally to advance the needs, concerns and aspirations of Muslim women, children and the families that they live with in.

Phone 029 20496920 or Email info@hennafoundation.org

Bawso is an all Wales voluntary organisation, providing specialist services to victims and BAME people affected or at risk of Domestic Abuse and all forms of violence including: Female Genital Mutilation, Forced Marriage, Honour Based Violence, Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking.

Phone - 0800 731 8147

www.bawso.org.uk

The Petals FGM app a useful online resource developed by Coventry University.

Safeguarding children’s rights-exploring issues of witchcraft and spirit-possession

Section 4 of the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act of 2015 requires Welsh Government to produce a National Strategy, which includes setting out what they will do to challenge cultural attitudes which can underpin traditional harmful practices such as FGM, Forced Marriage and Honour Bases Abuse.

Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015

In 2007, the UK Government brought in Forced Marriage Civil Protection Orders in the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act, 2007. Under this Act, a person threatened with forced marriage can apply to court for a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) which can contain whatever provisions the court finds would be appropriate to prevent the forced marriage from taking place, or to protect a victim of forced marriage from its effects, and may include such measures as confiscation of passport or restrictions on contact with the victim.

Any person threatened with forced marriage or any professional can apply for an FMPO, on their behalf.

The subject of a FMPO can be the person to whom the forced marriage will occur, or any other person who aids, abets or encourages the forced marriage. A marriage can be considered forced not merely on the grounds of threats of physical violence to the victim, but also through threats of physical violence to third parties (for example, the victim's family), or even self-violence (for example, marriage procured through threat of suicide.) A person who violates a force marriage order is subject to contempt of court proceedings and may be arrested.

In June 2014, further legislation was introduced to make forced marriage a criminal offence, in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, under which the penalty is a maximum prison sentence of seven years. It is designed to strengthen the 2007 Act by making forced marriage an imprisonable offence, which was not previously available and giving protection to people with learning difficulties.

Mandatory Reporting, FGM - Home Office Guidance


1 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/175391/Munro-Review.pdf

2 Harrison, K. and Gill, A K; (2018) Breaking Down Barriers: Recommendations for Improving Sexual Abuse Reporting Rates in British South Asian Communities- The British Journal of Criminology, Volume 58, Issue 2, 15 February 2018, Pages 273–290

3 Forced Marriage Unit Statistics 2017, Home Office, 2018 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/730155/2017_FMU_statistics_FINAL.pdf

4 Child abuse linked to faith or belief https://www.met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/caa/child-abuse/faith-based-abuse/