Charity warns genital mutilation is on the rise
by Kate Ferguson
A CASE of female genital mutilation (FGM) is either discovered or treated at a medical appointment in England every hour, according to analysis of NHS statistics by a charity published toda.
Between April 2015 and March 2016, there were 8,656 occasions when women or girls attended doctors’ surgeries or hospitals and the problem was assessed — the equivalent of one every 61 minutes.
Among those who attended, a case of FGM is newly recorded every 92 minutes on average.
This means a woman or girl has their case recorded by the NHS for the first time. In many cases, they will have been cut some years before, but it has not come to the attention of doctors sooner.
The figures come as the world marks International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, a UN-sponsored event to raise awareness of the issue.
Tanya Barron, chief executive of charity Plan International UK, which analysed the statistics, said an estimated 200 million women and girls worldwide were affected.
But FGM will only end if it is tackled globally, from the village halls of Mali and Sierra Leone to the classrooms of Britain, she said.
It has been illegal to carry out FGM in Britain since 1985, but there has not been a single successful prosecution.
This failure has been branded a “national scandal” by the Commons home affairs select committee.
Shadow secretary of state for women Sarah Champion said that, until perpetrators are sentenced, people will continue to believe that they can get away with it.
She said: “We have had the legislation now for 30 years, but legislation, unless it is embedded in practice, is just a piece of paper.
“Until we get a conviction, I don’t think the message is going to go out, loud and plain, that this is child abuse and is unacceptable.”
Ms Champion argued that, while the government has introduced new measures, including an obligation on teachers, medics and social workers to report FGM in children, more must be done.
“The government has been good at changing legislation, they have brought in mandatory reporting,” she added.
“But funding has not gone in a meaningful way to groups working in these communities, talking to people, telling them this is child abuse and this is something they will go to jail for.”
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