Girls are being pressured to undergo female genital mutilation(FGM) in British playgrounds, a survivor has warned amid an international crackdown on the practice.
Dr Leyla Hussein, who underwent the procedure when she was seven years old in Somalia, said pressure was being put on children by their peers as well as relatives.
“Some of my clients are 19-year-old girls who were children or were born in this country, and they will say they were pressured in a playground in a school in London to go and have it done,” she added, urging people in affected communities to confront the idea of FGM as a “tradition”.
“We really have to be forceful in protecting children, and unfortunately I will be upsetting people but I personally don’t care if I’m going to upset some community leader….we cannot tiptoe around it.”
Officers and social workers have been stationed at British and American airports, and on the Eurostar this week as part of a transatlantic operation to prevent families taking children abroad for FGM and help survivors.
An estimated 500 people were spoken to at Heathrow Airport on Thursday alone after arriving on flights from countries where the practice is prevalent, and similar operations are taking place at Gatwick, Manchester and Luton.
The operation, codenamed Limelight, has also been carried out at New York’s JFK Airiport after American authorities signed a “proclamation of interagency support” for FGM investigations with the UK.