Female genital mutilation (FGM) is still on the rise in Britain, new statistics have revealed. Despite being banned for thirty years in the UK, not a single successful prosecution for FGM has taken place. Now, campaigners have called for churches to become involved in the fight against FGM.
According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), 578 new cases of FGM were recorded in March of this year alone. Hospitals have only been officially recording cases that they encounter since September 2014, but already in the first six months 3,963 cases have been identified, including 60 girls under the age of 18.
Those figures, however, are thought to be the tip of the iceberg – some estimates put the total number of girls and women in the UK who have undergone FGM as high as 137,000.
The figures have prompted Dr Ann Marie Wilson, founder and director of FGM pressure group 28 Too Many to call on the government to do more. But she added that other influential people, including church leaders, also had a duty to speak out.
“This data highlights that FGM is a major issue that must be prioritised by the UK Government and it is also important that other influential voices, including faith leaders, speak out against this harmful practice,” she told Christian Today.
“FGM predates Islam and Christianity and although it is not part of any religion it is practised by both Christians and Muslims.
“The Church and faith leaders can help in many ways and should help raise awareness of FGM in their communities. It is important that people know that FGM is illegal and must be stopped. Hearing this from Church leaders is a very powerful message.”
A test case which came to court last February found the two defendants – a hospital doctor who sewed up a woman after she gave birth, reinstating her FGM, and his colleague who was accused of abetting the offence – not guilty.
The Crown Prosecution Service came under fire at the time for bringing the “wrong case” to the courts, but Alison Saunders, director of the CPS, told the BBC: “We prosecute the cases referred to us. We cannot go out and target anyone.”
Three further cases are currently with the CPS for consideration, but eleven have already been dismissed by the Service without coming to court. It is also aware of another four which are being investigated but have not yet been passed on to the CPS, while a fifth has been dropped by police, who decided that there should be no further action.