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Credit: Ekaterina Bolovtsova / Pexels

While female genital mutilation and forced marriage can be prosecuted under UK laws, understanding the prevalence of these crimes is challenging.

The University of Birmingham has been awarded a contract by the UK Home Office to develop tools that can clarify the picture, and, in the long term, help determine the effectiveness of interventions to tackle these two crimes.

Previous measurement tools have been developed within a variety of different contexts and are based on a range of different assumptions including, for example, how data is collected, or how stigmatised survivors of abuse are.

The range of different information sources, combined with the hidden nature of crimes – particularly since they frequently take place within the family unit – makes it very difficult to compare data and build a comprehensive picture.

It’s only by understanding the scale of this problem that we can seek full accountability through our criminal justice system.

Dr Rowland Seymour, School of Mathematics

Lead researcher Dr Rowland Seymour, of the University of Birmingham’s School of Mathematics, explained: “Measurement is crucial in identifying who needs to be protected from female genital mutilation and forced marriage. It’s only by understanding the scale of the problem that we can seek full accountability through our criminal justice system.”

The project will start with the researchers working with key stakeholders, including government agencies, third sector organisations, academics and community organisations, to identify where information is available and what measurement methods could be used to tap into this information.

This information will feed into the development of a comprehensive measurement tool that can be used to determine the prevalence of these hidden crimes.