A campaign raising awareness of the dangers of female genital mutilation (FGM) has been launched by the government as the practice remains “cloaked in secrecy”.
As many as 100,000 women and girls in the UK are estimated to have undergone the illegal procedure, but a fraction of that number have disclosed it to the NHS.
Despite the strengthening of laws, there has not yet been a successful prosecution over FGM and campaigners have said education will be a more effective way of stopping the practice.
Police operations have focused on preventing girls being taken abroad to undergo FGM, but a survivor told The Independent that “cutters” are also being flown into the UK to carry out procedures to order.
Hoda Ali, an activist who works in safeguarding in the London borough of Ealing, said: “The reality is we need to open our eyes. We don’t need to think just about far-away countries because right now we have girls who are in their late teens or even early 20s who were cut in this country. They are British girls who were born here and they were cut here.”
The Home Office’s awareness campaign, called Let’s Protect Our Girls, will target parents and community elders in practising communities mainly from Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Iraq, Gambia and Nigeria.