HSCIC reveal 5,700 newly recorded cases of female genital mutilation in year

There were 5,700 newly recorded cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) in England over the last year.

Annual data has been published for the first time showing the numbers of women and girls identified as having FGM or receiving treatment for it in NHS organisations such as hospitals and GP surgeries.

Overall, there were 5,700 cases newly recorded and 8,660 visits where FGM was identified or a medical procedure for FGM was needed.

Women and girls may have had more than one visit throughout the year. Just over 100 girls were under 18 at their first visit and over half of cases were for women and girls from London.

The data, from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), showed women and girls born in Somalia accounted for more than a third (37%) of cases, or 810 of the total, where country of birth was known.

Some 43 cases were among women and girls born in the UK. Eighteen cases involved FGM carried out in the UK, with 11 of those involving women or girls born in the UK.

Around 10 of these procedures were genital piercings, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) says is forced on some young girls as a form of FGM. It is unknown if any of the 10 cases involved adult women who had chosen to get piercings.

FGM was most commonly carried out between the ages of five and nine, accounting for 43% (582) of cases where age at the time of the FGM was known, the data showed.

FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985 and there are new laws stopping girls from being taken abroad for FGM.

Carmel Bagness, from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: “Collecting and publishing these statistics is an important part of the fight against FGM. They can be used to better plan local services to meet the needs of women and girls, and to target training for nurses and midwives.

“What these statistics show is that there is still a lot of work to do to eradicate this abuse. A lot has been achieved in the past few years, but these efforts must continue for as long as there are still women and girls subjected to this criminal abuse.”

Kerry Smith, head of advocacy at the charity Plan International UK, said: “Once again the shocking scale of female genital mutilation is made clear today. More than 100 reported cases a week represents a major public health issue which – while increased action and awareness in recent years is welcome – needs urgent attention across government departments.

“As is evident in the data, this is a harmful practice which doesn’t respect borders: it’s a problem of a global nature. So it’s also critical that our response in the UK is seen as part of a wider international movement to end FGM.”

Public Health and Innovation Minister Nicola Blackwood said: “FGM devastates lives, and we are committed to ending this abusive practice.

“Too often FGM is a hidden crime so, to help us do this, we must know the scale of the problem, which is why we are collecting data on FGM across the NHS.

“This means we can protect those at risk, provide support to survivors and ultimately end this crime once and for all.”

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