The UK Government will be introducing new training and guidance for front-line public sector workers to help recognise the signs of female genital mutilation, the Deputy Prime Minister is due to tell a summit today.
Female genital mutilation is one of the oldest and the most extreme ways in which societies have sought to control the lives and bodies of generations of young women and girls.
Without the right knowledge, skills and experience, people feel like they don't have the cultural understanding and authority to even talk about this practice honestly, never mind intervene when they're worried someone is vulnerable.
Teachers, doctors and social workers will be given extra training to identify and help girls who might be at risk of becoming victims of female genital mutilation (FGM).
The measures will see new guidance for professionals become part of compulsory training in public sector organisations.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will set out a package of measures to tackle FGM at a summit tomorrow.
The plan will involve supporting a small network of "community champions" to encourage volunteers who want to provide help in areas affected by FGM.
An estimated 170,000 women and girls in the UK have been subjected to FGM, according to a report from MPs.
The Home Affairs committee also found:
- In two London boroughs almost one in 10 girls are born to mothers who have suffered the procedure and are therefore themselves at risk.
- FGM is most commonly carried out on girls between the ages of five and eight.
- In some cases it is carried out by a health professional, but is more commonly undertaken by a traditional practitioner with no formal training, without anaesthetic, using knives, scissors or even pieces of glass.
- The committee said there was still very little information on the girls most at risk.
- The immediate effects can include severe pain, bleeding, shock, infection and occasionally death.
- In the long term, many women and girls experience mental health problems, such as depression and post-traumatic stress.
- Police in the UK have investigated more than 200 cases over the last five years.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Association of Chief Police Officers (AOCPO) have been "too passive" and lacked leadership when tackling FGM, MPs said.
In a damning report into UK efforts to stop the practice, MPs said:
One reason behind the UK's poor record is that the police and Crown Prosecution Service have historically been far too passive in their approach to FGM by waiting for survivors to come forward.
Yet the nature of FGM means that it is unlikely that this will happen.
It is unacceptable that those in a position with the most access to evidence of these crimes do nothing to help the victims and those at risk.
A key objective for a national action plan on FGM must be to overcome practitioners' own reluctance to address FGM so that they respond to it in the same way as other forms of child abuse.
The failure to curb the growing practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK is a "national scandal", according to a group of influential MPs.
The Home Affairs select committee criticised authorities for not intervening to help thousands of girls who were subjected to "severe physical child abuse".
In a hard-hitting report, the cross-party groups of MPs estimated 65,000 under the age of 13 were at risk of FGM.
The committee blamed a "misplaced concern for cultural sensitivities over the rights of the child" for authorities failing to protect youngsters from the practice, which is largely associated with Africa.
While FGM has been outlawed in Britain since 1985, the first prosecution only took place this year - days before the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders was due to appear before the committee.
GP Phoebe Abe, who has worked with 56 patients who have been victims of Female Genital Mutilation, says real change will only come when awareness that the practise is illegal is increased throughout afflicted communities.
Dr Abe said it was important to highlight that FGM is a criminal offence, and punishable.
The Metropolitan Police chief said a campaign launched to identify possible victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) "warns" people of the law.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said: "They have an option to stop - the fact they bought a ticket to me is irrelevant.
"They should not be committing a serious attack on a child and they should not be breaking the law."
Head of the Met Police's Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command said female genital mutilation (FGM) "will not be tolerated in the United Kingdom".
Detective Chief Superintendent Keith Niven said:
FGM is an abhorrent offence which includes violent assaults upon children.
It's really important to educate people who engage in this practice so they are aware that this is not a legitimate way to bring children up.
This is child abuse ... and people will be prosecuted if we find evidence of this.
Police launched an operation this week at airports across the UK targeting flights to and from countries known to carry out female genital mutilation (FGM).
The joint-force Operation Limelight includes officers at Heathrow Airport speaking with passengers on 13 outbound flights to "high risk" countries.
Passengers were warned that FGM is illegal in the UK and if caught, offenders face a large fine and a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
Flights to Heathrow from Nigeria and Sierra Leone were also targeted as officers sought to identify children subjected to FGM and anyone who may have arranged the procedure.