UK: Official Figures Show Number of FGM Cases More Than Double in a Year

Uganda outlawed the ritual of female genital mutilation (FGM) in 2010 but it continues in some rural communities
AFP Yasuyoshi CHIBA

Government figures have revealed the number of female genital mutilation cases coming to the attention of local government has more than doubled in just a year, with social workers now dealing with 30 FGM-related incidents a week.

The number of social work assessments in which girls were identified as victims of FGM or as being at risk of the practice rose to 1,960 in 2017/18, from 970 the previous year, as campaigners warned the “worrying” statistics represented only “the tip of the iceberg.”

Analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) of official UK data also found that the number of child abuse cases thought to be linked to faith or belief — such as witchcraft or fear of demonic possession — increased 12 per cent to 1,630 in the same period.

Anita Lower, the LGA lead on FGM, said the figures showed the “worrying prevalence of FGM, which is ruining lives and destroying communities,” adding that “the true incidence rate of [the practice] is likely to be higher” because of the underreported nature of the crime.

She said: “At a time when they should be preparing for adult life and enjoying being young, no girl or young woman should be subject to the horrors of genital mutilation which is child abuse and cannot be justified for any reason.”

Leethen Bartholomew, head of the National FGM Centre, commented: “While we are making progress in tackling FGM, these alarming statistics show it is still being practised in communities across England.

“Even more concerning is that these figures are likely to just be the tip of the iceberg because many cases of FGM go undetected.”

Earlier this year, figures from the National Health Service (NHS) showed medical staff had recorded a total of 4,495 new cases of FGM over the previous 12 months, or the equivalent of one girl undergoing the procedure every two hours.

With some 137,000 women and girls living in Britain estimated to be victims of the abuse, the country’s failure to secure a single prosecution for FGM since it was first outlawed in 1985 was branded a “national scandal” in a report earlier this year.

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