Dozens of victims of female genital mutilation treated in Northamptonshire
More than 50 victims of female genital mutilation were seen by NHS staff in hospitals across Northamptonshire in the last year.
While more commonly concentrated in larger cities, the new NHS figures show that cases are also on the rise in smaller towns and rural regions.
In Northamptonshire about 55 appointments at NHS services concerned victims of FGM – where female genitals are cut, injured or changed for no medical reason – between July 2017 and June this year.
Of those, about 45 were having their injuries recorded by doctors, nurses or midwives for the first time.
Across England, there were 8,930 appointments for women and girls with FGM at NHS services over the 12-month period, with more than 4,000 having their injuries recorded for the first time.
FGM is illegal in the UK. Carrying it out or assisting in it being conducted, either in the UK or abroad, can be punished with up to 14 years in prison.
In 2015, the Government introduced Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders. Courts can use them to take preventative measures such as forcing potential victims of FGM to surrender their passport, so they are unable to fly abroad for procedures.
The NSPCC estimates that 137,000 people living in the UK are victims of FGM.
The NSPCC’s head of policy Almudena Lara said: “FGM is a barbaric practice that leaves its victims physically and mentally scarred. The actual number of victims is likely to be even higher, as only a tiny fraction come forward for medical help, and even then they may only come forward after many years have passed.
“It takes courage to report concerns as many feel ashamed or worry they will betray friends and family. We urge any young women or girls dealing with the physical and emotional impact of FGM to seek help and support, and anyone concerned about someone they think is at risk to speak out.”
As well as providing treatment for injuries sustained through FGM, NHS services also advise patients on the illegality of the practice, and provide advice on its long-term health implications.
FGM is most commonly carried out within communities from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and young girls are often flown abroad for ceremonies where FGM is performed.
Of the victims of FGM seen in Northamptonshire, many did not have their country of birth recorded. For the appointments where this information was recorded, they were most commonly in Eastern Africa.
Most appointments concerned victims aged 30 to 34, and the majority were pregnant.