Women and girls across the North East are among those affected by female genital mutilation. One Middlesbrough based charity has dealt with 20 cases since 2015. However, due to significant under-reporting the number of victims is believed to be much higher.
Twenty FGM protection orders, which offer a legal means to protect and safeguard victims and potential victims of FGM, have also been issued in the region since 2015.
FGM involves altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
For the United Nations’ International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, marked on February 6, local charities, groups, the CPS and police are working together to highlight the practice.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC said:
FGM is a serious crime that carries a maximum sentence of 14 years. It is an awful most intimate mutilation capable of causing continuing physical pain, illness and grave, long-lasting psychological damage.
Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg said we don't know enough about the scale of the problem in the North East:
If anyone has any knowledge of FGM taking place, they should report it, to help ensure that other people do not suffer in the same way.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger helped to set up The Halo Project to deliver confidential, specialist support for victims of FGM to reassure them that they do have a voice.
The charity has set up a university hub in Durham, in which student volunteers campaign to raise awareness of the issue.
Even if they choose not to report to the police. FGM will not be tolerated in our society and I want to make it clear that where possible, prosecutions will be made and offenders will be brought to justice.”
The Angelou Centre in Newcastle’s West End has trained hundreds of teachers, pupils and social work students in the region to spot the warning signs of FGM.