All pupils in England are to be taught about female genital mutilation under Government plans to introduce compulsory sex education classes.
Children in secondary school will learn about the physical and emotional damage caused by the practise, as well as other kinds of honour-based violence such as forced marriage.
The topics will be covered as part of relationship and sex education (RSE) lessons, which will become a statutory requirement for all schools to teach from September 2020.
Pupils will taught how about the perils of social media and how to stay safe online, as well as about well-being and healthy living as part of classes.
Damian Hinds, the education secretary, said that pupils must be given “all the facts” about FGM at school in order to challenge any assumption they might otherwise hold about the practise.
“We know that FGM can have a catastrophic effect on the lives of those affected, causing life-long physical and psychological damage,” he said.
“Everyone must do all they can to protect women and girls from this extreme form of gendered violence.
“Our reforms to relationships and sex education will ensure young people are taught in an age-appropriate way about different forms of abuse and their rights under the law, to equip them with the knowledge they need to keep themselves and others safe.”
137,000 women and girls are affected by FGM in England and Wales, according to the NSPCC. In the past four years, 296 Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders have been made to prevent the practise, or example by stopping them young women from being taken abroad to be cut.
The practise has been illegal since 2003, and earlier this month the mother of a three-year-old girl in east London became the first person in Britain to be found guilty of FGM.
Nimco Ali, director of the charity Daughters of Eve which campaigns to protect girls from FGM, welcomed the move. “We need to empower young people with the knowledge not only to know what is right and wrong but the rights they have to be safe,” she said.
“As a child I had no idea FGM was illegal, I just knew it was painful. It took me years to piece together what happened to me and why I felt the way I did about it.
“Had I been given the education now being introduced, I would have been able to support those in my family to understand, and prevent other girls from being cut.”
Under legislation passed in 2017, relationships education is now compulsory in all primary schools, while sex and relationships education is compulsory in secondaries.
As part of the move, guidance on the subject is being updated, following concerns that the current advice is out of date and fails to address modern day issues such as cyber-bullying, sexting and online safety.