Around 4,500 new cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) were recorded in England over the last year, more than one every two hours, official data shows.
Between April 2017 and March 2018, around 6,200 women and girls who visited a doctor, midwife, or other public health services in England had been exposed to the form of abuse at some point, the National Health Service (NHS) said on Thursday.
Some cases had already been recorded, but 4,495 were being logged for the first time since the government made it compulsory for medical practitioners to report cases of FGM in 2015.
Since then, there have been 28,326 medical attendances of females with FGM and 16,265 newly recorded cases. However, an estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales have been exposed to the practice overall.
In the past 12 months, nearly half (2,755) of the attendance cases were in London, 1,415 were in the north of England, 1,200 in the Midlands and East, and 745 in the south of England.
Of the cases where both the age of the victim and the place of birth could be determined, 86 percent of the women and girls were born and had FGM undertaken in an African country, the NHS added in a report.
FGM has been a criminal offence in Britain since 1985, and since 2003 it has been illegal for British citizens to carry out or procure FGM abroad – but police and prosecutors are yet to secure a single conviction, with the National Police Chiefs’ Council FGM lead describing the crime as “nuanced”.
In response to the new NHS data, the National FGM Centre, run by Barnardo’s children’s charity and the Local Government Association, called for “more to be done to support survivors and protect girls at risk from the practice”.
The organisation’s head, Leethen Bartholomew, said: “Shockingly, today’s figures confirm that dozens of women and girls born in the UK have undergone FGM, despite the practice being illegal for over 30 years.
“Yet there still hasn’t been a single successful prosecution to hold perpetrators to account. FGM is child abuse and it’s vital that we work with affected communities to change hearts and minds about the practice.
“Agencies must also work better together to prosecute those who fail to protect girls from this type of abuse.”
Hemraj Goyal Foundation director Anita Goyal said: “No child should have to suffer from any form of violence.”
She added: “While school teachers now are given training in how to identify and handle cases of FGM and honour abuse, historically this was not the case.
“As a former teacher at a secondary school in Romford, I remember how the subject of FGM and other honour abuse was seen as a taboo, with little to no knowledge in the school about how to handle such cases.”