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Harmful Practices

What are harmful practices?

Harmful practices have often been embedded in communities for a long time and are born out of community pressure. They are often committed and actively condoned by the child’s parents or significant adults within the child’s/young person’s community.

They include rituals, traditions or other practices that have a detrimental effect on the physical, mental and emotional health of the victim. Many of the practices involve bias against groups of children, particularly girls and children with disabilities. Many involve physical abuse and pain leading, in some cases intentionally, to death or serious injury.

The most common forms of Harmful Practices are:

  • forced or early marriage
  • so-called ‘honour’ based violence
  • female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM).
  • breast ironing, also known as breast flattening

Other forms include:

  • spirit possession
  • son preference
  • bride kidnapping
  • acid attacks
  • abuse linked to menstruation

Children and young people can be at risk of significant harm (including death) and any referrals should be made to MASH citing the harmful practice that the child or young person is at risk of. As with all child abuse concerns, if you think a child is in immediate danger, always call 999.

Due to the involvement of wider family and community members to perpetrate harmful practices, it’s important that professionals ensure enhanced confidentiality in these cases.

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