London (CNN)Concerns about female genital mutilation, or FGM, are rising in the UK after the number of children who’ve had the procedure or are at risk of it more than doubled in the past year.
Police are warning that culture and tradition are no excuse for ‘honour based’ abuse – after the shock revelation that more than a quarter of reported examples in the last four years happened in Slough.
From this week Thames Valley police will be focussing on the issue as part of their ongoing Hidden Harm campaign.
Detective Superintendent Nick John said that 300 of the 1,200 cases of ‘honour based’ abuse dealt with by Thames Valley Police had been in or around the town.
He said: “For the first two weeks of July we’ll be focusing on both raising awareness of this crime and the signs to look out for as well as building confidence in victims themselves to recognise that they are being abused and to seek help.
“There are a number of different ways honour based abuse can manifest itself. For example, someone may be abused by their family for being in a relationship with a person of the same sex or from a different culture.
“They may not want to take part in an arranged marriage or they may be simply wearing clothing or taking part in activities not considered ‘traditional’.
“The abuse doesn’t have to be physical, it can be emotional or sexual and may involve threats of violence, false imprisonment, stalking, forced marriage and in some cases even murder.
“Honour based abuse is not about religion. It’s to do with beliefs and customs and an expectation that an individual should behave in a certain way or they will bring shame or dishonour on their family or the wider community.”
He emphasised the campaign was not about singling out any particular faith or culture but getting people to understand that it was abuse.
“It’s also about reassuring victims to come forward and talk to us and not to wait until a crime has actually taken place before they do.”