Published: 00:01, 17 February 2017
A children’s charity has called for more action to stop Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), as the latest figures show there have been 30 cases in Kent.
The NSPCC says it is contacted an average of more than once a day by people worried about girls who may have suffered or be at risk of the practice.
Since its FGM helpline was launched in June 2013, it has received more than 1,500 calls, with around a third of concerns serious enough to be referred to police or social services.
Worried callers have included those contacting the helpline with fears for babies who they believed were at risk.
FGM is believed to affect around 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales.
It has been a criminal offence in the UK for 30 years, and in 2003 it also became an offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to take their child abroad to have female genital mutilation.
Despite this, there has yet to be a successful prosecution for the offence, although the latest NHS figures show that 30 cases were recorded in Kent in 2015/16.
Since July 2015 people can seek an FGM Protection Order to safeguard a potential victim.
Ministry of Justice figures show that, between July 2015 and September 2016, 97 applications were made across England and Wales, with 79 being obtained.
Data obtained by the NSPCC shows that, in addition to applications from professionals, a significant proportion are from the person themselves, a relative, friend, or member of the community.
While some Family Courts have issued several Protection Orders, many have so far issued none despite the volume of calls to the NSPCC helpline indicating a widespread concern about the illegal practice.
“For far too long female genital cutting has been cloaked in secrecy so we need more people in communities to join forces to ensure this dangerous practice is ended" - John Cameron, head of NSPCC Helplines
The charity is calling for discussion about FGM to be part of age appropriate sex and relationship education in all schools to ensure girls and boys can recognise the practice as abuse and get help to prevent it.
John Cameron, head of NSPCC Helplines, said: “We know from calls to our dedicated helpline that female genital mutilation is still affecting hundreds of girls in the UK and we are urging young people, and any adults worried about them, to speak out and get help.
“Some families who subject their children to female genital mutilation may do so because of cultural norms or that they believe it will help their child improve their life.
“It’s vital that everyone realises FGM serves no purpose, and leaves long lasting physical and emotional scars on the victims.
“For far too long female genital cutting has been cloaked in secrecy so we need more people in communities to join forces to ensure this dangerous practice is ended.
“This is child abuse and it is against the law. It has no place in any society.”
Anyone concerned a child is at risk of or has experienced FGM can speak to an NSPCC advisors on 0800 0283550 or email email@example.com so that appropriate action can be taken.
More information can be found online at www.nspcc.org.uk/fgm
Children can call Childline at any time on 0800 1111. If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, dial 999.
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