27 01 2015
Almost 500 newly identified cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) were reported by hospitals across England in one month, according to the latest figures.
An average of 15 cases were discovered each day in November, according to data published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).
Last November 466 cases of FGM were identified; while in October, the first month such figures were compiled, 455 cases were reported. The figures for December are expected this week.
Despite the apparently high number of FGM cases, no one has yet been convicted for the practice, which has been illegal in the UK since 1985.
Dhanuson Dharmasena is currently on trial accused of performing FGM on a patient at the Whittington hospital in north London, it is the first prosecution of its kind.
FGM is the deliberate partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
It is often performed in north and east Africa, as well as in some Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, on pre-pubescent girls and is thought to mark the passage into womanhood.
John Cameron, the NSPCC’s head of child protection operations, called FGM a “barbaric practice”.
“It is vital all health professionals are trained to spot the signs of FGM and that girls who are subjected to this brutal practice get the post-traumatic support they deserve,” he told the Sunday Times.
FGM poses an increased risk to childbirth, can cause infertility, raises the risk of infection and can even result in death.
In the UK it is estimated that 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk every year, according to the Plan charity, which campaigns against the practice. Globally, 130 million girls and women have undergone FGM.
Around a quarter of NHS trusts did not submit figures to the HSCIC, which means the true number of cases is likely to be higher.