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.
Useful Links and Publications
- OSCB FGM local procedures, screening tool and strategy
- Three Key Questions for interviewing women to discuss FGM
- DoH FGM Multi-agency practice guidelines
- Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) – A joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit which 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.
- Oxford Against Cutting – a rights-based group working to help prevent harmful practices
- Karma Nirvana – Helpline: 0800 5999247 provides help and support around so-called ‘honour based’ abuse and forced marriages
- FGM At A Glance
- WHO Factsheet
- NHS Choices FGM
- Forward – Safeguarding Rights and Dignity, FGM
- Violating Children’s rights – Harmful Practices [PDF]
- AFRUCA – Africans Unite against Child Abuse