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Female genital mutilation (FGM) leaves women "mentally and physically scarred for life", a victim said.
Sarian Karim endured FGM when she was 11 years old in her home of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Describing her experience to highlight the dangers of the practice, which has been illegal in the UK since 1985, she said:
"It was secretive and I knew children and women had been through the practice but no one spoke about it. There was an excitement about it, as it was regarded as a 'coming of age' ceremony.
"I was happy to be initiated but I did not know what it would involve and the impact that it would have on me as an adult."
"FGM is a normal thing for us. We don't know it is against the law, but I know that it damages girls and leaves them scarred for life - mentally and physically.
"It is very important that everyone knows that FGM is illegal. We suffer from a lot of complications (because of the procedure). We want those people who work in schools to have guidelines and be able to inform, prepare and protect children."
More needs to be done by schools, hospitals, healthcare professionals and the justice system to eradicate female genital mutilation, a joint authored report into the practice across England and Wales said today.
Chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) Cathy Warwick said more work was needed to raise awareness of the harm that FGM, classed as torture by the UN, does to the health of girls and women. She said:
"We cannot expect communities or girls and young women to tackle this issue by themselves. FGM robs girls of their childhood and it is an abuse of their human rights.
"This is why we must work collaboratively to ensure that these recommendations, aligned to current policy frameworks, are implemented and monitored.
"FGM is a violation of children and women's human rights, and there is a real need to raise awareness about the damage that FGM can do to young girls and women within the communities that practise it."
As many as 66,000 women in England and Wales have endured genital mutilation, and 23,000 girls under the age of 15 are classified "at risk", according to new figures out today.
A report, written by experts from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, human rights organisation Equality Now and union Unite, said the UK's response to the problem was inadequate.
The British health and social care system is "failing" young girls and babies who are at risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), experts have warned.
The report says "at risk" girls are not receiving "adequate protection" against the barbaric procedure - classed as torture by the United Nations - with some care workers feeling that FGM does not lie within their remit.
There is no accountability in performance of health and social care workers and a lack of consistent data, according to the report by experts from the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Equality Now and union Unite.