More than 5,000 new cases of FGM in UK last year

Credit: PA
  • Video report by ITV News International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar

There were more than 5,000 new cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK last year, new figures have revealed.

On the day that activists marked the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM in a bid to draw global attention to the issue, NHS Digital also announced that there are around 24,000 women and girls at risk of the illegal procedure in the UK.

Of the 5,391 new cases of FGM reported in 2016-2017, 112 cases involved women or girls born in the UK, with 57 of the procedures being undertaken in the UK.

At 33%, the majority of new cases of women or girls who had suffered the procedure had been born in Somalia, while 88% of the total who had undergone the procedure were born in an African country.

FGM is a barbaric practice which involves altering or injuring female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognised internationally as a violation of human rights.

It is estimated that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM, according to the UN, while a further 100 million are at risk of the procedure.

The procedure is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15, the UN protest organisers said.

It causes severe bleeding and health issues including cysts, infections, infertility and complications in childbirth.

FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, and in 2003 the law was changed to prevent girls travelling from the UK to undergo the procedure abroad, however, there have been no successful prosecutions.

Despite it being illegal, many young British girls are having the procedure done abroad, the International Development Secretary told ITV News.

Penny Mordaunt continued that this was one of the main reasons why the UK is using its aid budget to help African nations end the practice.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said it is in the UK's interest to wipe out FGM globally. Credit: ITV News

The UK is one of the largest international donors on FGM, having committed £35 million five years ago to eradicate the practice globally.

"We think there are about 24,000 girls in the UK who are at risk of FGM...

"It's a huge number and that's why it's in our interest to ensure that this practice is wiped out globally, and the British people, through British aid,are contributing to an African-led movement to wipe out FGM," Ms Mordaunt told ITV News.

Also on Tuesday, campaigner Nimco Ali, herself a victim of FGM, was in Westminster where she was at the launch of an All-Party Parliamentary Group to end FGM globally where she too said that "we have to think local and act global.

"We can't be focusing on the African continent and not doing anything here at home, so we have to work holistically and say that FGM has to end and that has to include the UK."

Campaigner Nimco Ali said we need to 'think local, but act global'. Credit: ITV News

Reacting to the "concerning" figures released by NHS Digital, Michelle Lee-Izu, Director of the National FGM Centre continued: "It’s concerning that some of the latest figures show that many young women and girls are at risk.

"At a time when they should be preparing for adult life and enjoying being young, no girl or young woman should be subject to genital mutilation...

“As the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM arrives, it’s clear that our work has never been more crucial.

"The scourge of female genital mutilation ruins lives and destroys communities.

"We are determined to do all we can to stamp it out from our society."