Over 200 cases of FGM on women and girls born in UK identified by NHS during one year

More than 200 cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) performed on women and girls born in the UK were identified by NHS staff during one year, figures show.

Some 6,590 women and girls had a procedure to treat their FGM or were identified as having experienced FGM previously when they were treated between April 2019 and March 2020.

Of these, 205 were women or girls who had been born in the UK, according to an annual report from NHS Digital.

And 145 procedures had been performed illegally in the UK, hospital staff and GPs recorded during the period.

Since the data started being collected five years ago, around 24,420 women and girls have been identified as having previously been subject to the practice.

FGM, the intentional altering or injuring of the female genitals for non-medical reasons, has been illegal in the UK for more than three decades.

The law was strengthened in 2003 to prevent girls travelling from the UK and undergoing FGM abroad.

Some 85% of cases undertaken in the UK are known to be piercings, which are considered a form of FGM by the World Health Organisation.

Where both sets of information were recorded, 83% of women and girls were born and had FGM undertaken in an African country.

In 80% of the attendances during the year, FGM was identified in women and girls seen by midwifery and obstetric services.

The average age a woman attended health services and was identified as having experienced FGM previously was 32.

For 59% of the attendances, there was a record of whether the patient was told of the health implications of FGM, while for 54% of the attendances there was a record of whether they were told it was illegal.

In 704 attendances, deinfibulation was undertaken.

This is the surgical procedure to open up the closed vagina of a woman or girl, often to enable delivery during childbirth.

Councillor Anita Lower (pictured), the Local Government Association’s FGM lead spokeswoman and chairwoman of the National FGM Centre’s advisory board, said its work “has never been more essential”.

She said: “It represents a ready-made solution to help end FGM and prevent this abuse from happening in the first place, backed by clear evidence of its effectiveness.

“But with the Government’s longstanding financial support having ended earlier in this financial year, the Centre’s future remains uncertain, potentially leaving young women and girls at greater risk of FGM.

“It would be devastating if all of its vital work had to come to an end.”

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