Charity helpline shows progress is being made on female genital mutilation

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A new helpline is being launched to help girls at risk of suffering female genital mutilation. Photo: ITV News

The fact that a major UK charity has taken on the issue of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is progress; Proof that this issue is rightly moving from the sidelines onto the mainstream agenda.

The NSPCC's helpline aims to protect British girls at risk of ritual cutting, as practised by some African, Middle Eastern and Asian communities here.

It is surgery often performed by non-medical personnel in informal settings in the home, and it's a practice which can leave affected girls unable to have children, and permanently maimed.

It is thought as many as 20,000 girls and babies are at risk of the practice here, but many are living in "hard-to-reach" communities where the issue isn't discussed. Many are taken abroad for the surgery in the summer school holidays.

The victims "are hidden behind a wall of silence", said Lisa Harker of NSPCC. She emphasises that the practice is both a form of child abuse and illegal.

NSPCC strategy analyst Claire Lilley said:

Dr Comfort Momar is a Health Specialist at St Thomas's Hospital in London. She sees two women a week left scarred by the amateur surgery, and tries to reverse the damage done.

She told me that the time for "political correctness is over" and that the abuse must be tackled head on.

A girl of seven was the youngest victim of FGM treated by the NHS in the past two years, according to new data.

Some 1,700 women and girls were treated by specialist FGM clinics but this masks a bigger problem says the NSPCC.

Activists say more has to be done and are calling on the UK Government to implement a National Action Plan.

Efua Dorkenoo, OBE, Advocacy Director of FGM Programme, Equality Now, said:

It is extremely encouraging that the NSPCC is announcing a dedicated FGM helpline.

This will undoubtedly enhance the protection of girls at risk, but also those in need of counselling support.

The provision of a confidential space for front-line professionals and members of the public to provide information and to know that it will be followed up on is fantastic and is a vital element of the 'joined-up approach' to eliminating FGM in the UK.

– Efua Dorkenoo, OBE, Advocacy Director of FGM Programme, Equality Now

There have been no prosecutions for FGM in the UK, although the CPS tell me they are currently investigating six FGM cases in the UK.

  • Anyone who is worried about a child being or has been a victim of FGM can contact 0800 028 3550 for information and support.