16 Girls Report FGM Every Day in the UK, New Study Reveals
This harmful practice is a worldwide problem.
About 5,700 new cases of female genital mutilation were reported in England between April 2015 and March 2016 — the equivalent of 16 every day.
The numbers come from a new report, created by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, meant to track reported FGM cases in the UK.
FGM is a local and a global problem. For the women with a known country of birth, 90% of reported cases occurred to women or girls born in Africa and later moved to the UK. Eighteen of the cases took place in the UK, whilst 43 of the women affected were born in the UK.
The most common age for the procedure to take place was between the ages of 5 and 9.
Read more: Everything You Need to Know About FGM
These figures only reveal the number of documented cases of FGM — either because it was revealed in a medical examination or because the survivor has reported undergoing the practice.
The hidden reality of FGM in the UK could be even wider — many more cases are likely to go unreported as social stigma forces survivors to keep the experience secret. In an interview with Huffington Post UK, Mary Wandia, End FGM Program Manager at Equality Now, a partner on our Level The Law campaign, said the report’s figures were just “the tip of the iceberg” and estimated that there are roughly 137,000 women and girls living with the consequences of FGM in the UK.
Still, recording the number of FGM cases in the UK is a crucial move to help uncover the hidden practice. Years of campaigning at a grassroots level, led by FGM survivors like Nimco Ali and Leyla Hussein, or pioneering young activists like Fahma Muhammad, have brought FGM into the mainstream political consciousness. The recent hit play Cuttin’ It staged at London’s Royal Court theatre dealt with the reality of FGM in the UK, exploring the lives of two girls of Somali origin — one a recent refugee, one born in Britain — who both undergo the brutal practice. It is work like this that ensures the ongoing practice of FGM cannot be ignored.
In her previous role as Home Secretary, UK Prime Minister Theresa May emphasised the country’s commitment to ending the practice for good. At the 2014 Girl Summit, she announced a strong series of reforms to tackle FGM in the UK, including:
— Granting FGM survivors anonymity during court cases
— Making it mandatory for professionals, such as doctors or teachers, to report on cases of FGM they identify
— Holding parents to account for failing to protect their children from FGM
— Setting up a £3 million National FGM Prevention Programme in partnership with the NHS.
The latest report shows there are thousands of girls and women in the UK who have undergone FGM. It is thought that young girls from the UK are most at risk of being sent abroad to undergo the procedure during the summer holidays— making the consequences of the findings all the more urgent. Whilst FGM is illegal in the country, the report is proof that it is more important than ever to remain vigilant against the persistence of the practice both at home and abroad.