Call the Midwife FGM Storyline

Call the Midwife FGM Storyline

Posted on Feb 21, 2017

Call the Midwife FGM Storyline



Call the midwife returned to our screens for a new series in January this year, and amongst the various storylines, series six will see the show dealing with Female Genital Mutilation.

The BBC One drama will take a sympathetic look at a young woman who has undergone the procedure, with a storyline set among the East London’s Somali community.

Heidi Thomas, the show's screenwriter, has said she had wanted to include the storyline for quite some time, but had to wait until the drama reached the early 1960s, when “appropriate cultural communities” had settled in east London.

Speaking on the subject of the storyline with Radio Times, Thomas said;

“I thought this would be a fascinating story, as it would be the first time our midwives would have seen this process. It would provide a very interesting crunch point between two cultures and of course it is now a very hot topic, quite rightly.”

Keeping true to the politics of the day and focusing on the medical aspect was Thomas’s approach:

“You always have to look at things from two points of view, one from the Western nurse who has never seen this sort of thing before, and one from the woman who accepts it as it is part of her culture."

“It is very important not to look at it just from the white point of view. And in 1961, young unmarried midwives might not perhaps be as militant about the importance of the clitoris as we might be today.”

Charlotte Ritchie, the actress who plays Nurse Barbara Gilbert, said that dealing with such a sensitive and taboo subject was 'always nerve-wracking'.

“Every time a show deals with something sensitive such as this, it’s always nerve-wracking because you are inevitably going to affect people in ways that you can’t predict."


A lot has changed since the 1960s

Although the practice of FGM was banned in the UK in 1985, it was practically unheard of in the 1960s. In 2003, the law was strengthened to include the prevention of children travelling abroad to undergo FGM. However, despite this, there has yet to be a successful prosecution in the UK. Nearly 6,000 new cases were recorded in England in 2016 alone.


Reporting FGM

On 31st October 2015 it became a legal requirement for health professionals, social workers, and teachers in England and Wales to report known cases of FGM in under 18-year-olds to the police.

Nurses, doctors, teachers, and social workers are now required to report any concerns within one month of their findings. Each job role will require a slightly different approach to disclosure. In all cases, reports under the duty should be made as soon as possible after a case is discovered, and best practice is for reports to be made by the close of the next working day (unless you believe that a report to the police will result in an immediate safeguarding risk to the girl or another child). You should act with at least the same urgency as is required by your local safeguarding processes.


Action to take should you suspect someone is at risk of FGM

The NSPCC have suggested that up to 25,000 girls under the age of fifteen are at risk of FGM in the UK.

It is important that you incorporate FGM awareness within your safeguarding policies. This way, if any member of staff suspects someone may be at risk, they will have the correct information and will know exactly what action to take to protect girls and women in their care.


NSPCC FGM Helpline:

T: 0800 028 3550



Metropolitan Police Project Azure (FGM):

T: 0207 161 2888


Foreign and Commonwealth Office:

T: 0207 008 1500



For more information on FGM and for alternative helplines please click here.


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