According to shocking new health figures a case of female genital mutilation (FGM) is reported in England every 109 minutes.
FGM, also known as female circumcision, is “the practice of partially or totally removing the external genitalia of girls and young women for non-medical reasons.” It is mostly carried out between infancy and the age of 15 and carries a huge risk of infection, infertility, mental illness, kidney failure and even death.
The Health and Social Care Information Centre said there were around 2,421 instances of FGM in the U.K. from April 2015 to Sept. 2015.
What’s even more worrying is that these figures are only the “tip of the iceberg” because not all cases of FGM are reported and included in the official statistics. According to anti-FGM charity Plan UK the extent of this horrific practice is only now becoming clearer.
“FGM has been a hidden danger threatening girls in the U.K. and around the world — only now is the full scale becoming clear,” Tanya Barron, chief executive of Plan UK, told The Metro. “Recognising that FGM is a fundamental abuse of girls’ rights is the first step to ending the practice.”
Between July and Sept. 2015 there were 1,385 cases of FGM reported in England: 758 in London, 227 in the Midlands and east of England, 245 in the north of England and 155 in the south of England.
This practice is brutal but experts believe it is very simple to end — and education and awareness are key.
“If you stop one woman having FGM done to her then you break that link and prevent is being done to the next generation, [sic]” said Nimco Ali of the charity Daughters of Eve. Ali was cut at the age of 7 while on holiday in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.
“I came from a family that was 100 percent FGM and that has gone down to zero in a generation. It is something that can be ended,” she said. “We are finally shaking the taboo of FGM, but we have to be vigilant and cannot be complacent.”
A massive violation of human rights, FGM causes untold physical and emotional trauma while enforcing the inherent gender inequality found in cultures that practise it.
FGM remains legal in some countries, such as Sierra Leone. In other countries where it has recently been made illegal (like Somalia, who outlawed it in August 2015) it continues to be performed because some communities refuse to give up their cultural traditions.
It has been illegal in the U.K. since 1985 but it’s still happening. Right now in the U.K. 65,000 girls aged 13 and under are at risk of FGM.
Feb. 6 is International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. To help stop FGM and increase awareness of the practice in schools, you can sign the petition for a review of training on FGM and child marriage for school staff. Visit Plan UK for more information.