FGM awareness campaign launched across UK as illegal practice remains ‘cloaked in secrecy

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.


Burkina Faso botched FGM leaves 50 girls in hospital

Around 50 girls are being treated in hospital in Burkina Faso after botched circumcisions, or female genital mutilation (FGM), a minister says.

Not all girls who underwent the circumcision have been traced, Minister of Women’s Affairs, Laurence Marshall Ilboudo, said.

Two 60-year-old women, along with the parents of some of the girls, have been arrested.

FGM has been illegal in Burkina Faso since 1996.

Offenders face up to three years in prison.

About three-quarters of women and girls in Burkina Faso have undergone circumcision, but only 9% favour the practice, according to UN children agency Unicef.

The circumcisions took place in the Kaya area, about 100km (60 miles) north of the capital, Ouagadougou, between 4 and 6 September.

Some of the victims are as young as four years, authorities say.

A dozen girls have been admitted to the Kaya Regional Hospital and 38 to the Chiphra Protestant Hospital in the capital.

Some of the girls had suffered serious complications, Dr Dieudonne Ouedraogo told the BBC.


Allowing children to marry brings shame on Britain

Since becoming an MP, much of my time has been spent campaigning to prevent child abuse and to protect women and girls from violence. I have been outspoken against child marriage, which is often forced marriage and has devastating consequences. Unicef estimates there are 12 million child marriages in the world every year — that is 23 girls every minute. Such marriages can result in early pregnancy, social isolation, interrupted schooling, limited career opportunities and increased risk of domestic violence.


Girls ‘being pressured into FGM in UK playgrounds’, survivor warns amid international crackdown

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.


Nimco Ali: A register can help protect our daughters against FGM

On Friday the Evening Standard broke the story of a three-year-old girl who needed emergency surgery after allegedly being subjected to female genital mutilation. London has the largest FGM-affected population in the UK and earlier this year a Londoner was cleared of arranging FGM on his daughter when she was nine.

The medical evidence proved the child had been subjected to FGM but the jury did not believe the child’s story that her father had arranged for her to be cut twice between 2010 and 2013.

The fact that FGM is happening in London is an open secret and we are not doing enough to fight the issue.

Those committed to harming girls are becoming more and more confident. Thankfully, the three-year-old at the heart of the current case is alive but I fear that soon we will be dealing with dead children as a result of FGM. This is why I am calling for all girls born to women who have undergone FGM to be put on a protection register.


UK Somali teenagers taken ‘on holiday’ and forced into marriage

British Somali teenagers are being taken back to their parents’ homeland under the pretence of a holiday and then kept in detention centres before being forced into marriages.

Under the practice of dhaqan celis, loosely translated as “the rehabilitation community”, Somali children and teenagers are routinely taken to the country, where they are often sent to “rehabilitation” centres.

The centres promote themselves as “re-education” schools to align young people with Somali cultural values and their Somali roots. The Home Office, however, says they tend not to deliver an academic curriculum and are in fact detention centres where young people are routinely subjected to physical, sexual and mental abuse. In some cases, those held against their will are told the only way out is to get married.

David Myers, joint head of the Home Office’s forced marriage unit (FMU) in the UK, said: “What we are seeing in these communities is that young people who have antisocial behaviour issues, are getting involved in gangs and drugs, and are being sent back to Somalia by their parents for re-education and rehabilitation.


FGM travel ban ‘keeping family apart for 16 years

A travel ban imposed for 15 years on a child because of concerns that she was at risk of being taken abroad for female genital mutilation is to be challenged in the Court of Appeal. It is the first time an FGM case has reached the court.

The travel ban was imposed on the child, referred to in court as X, who was born in 2016 to a white English mother and an Egyptian father who lives in Egypt and cannot join the mother and X because of visa issues.


Forced marriage: Leeds parents jailed over Bangladesh wedding

A husband and wife have been jailed for tricking their daughter into travelling to Bangladesh in order to force her into marriage.

The couple were described as “monsters” by their daughter who they had threatened to kill if she did not go ahead with the arrangement.

The father was jailed for four-and-a-half years and the mother for three-and-a-half years at Leeds Crown Court.

None of those involved in the case can be named.

More stories from Yorkshire

The then 18-year-old daughter had to be rescued from a remote village in an operation by the British High Commission involving armed police, the judge heard,

The woman, who is from Leeds and is now aged 20, described in a victim impact statement how she had assumed a new identity and lived in fear of her family.

She said: “I know I will always have to remain cautious but, knowing those monsters are going to be in prison, I feel the uttermost freedom in my heart.

“I want other girls to know that forcing someone to marry is wrong.”

‘Chop her up’

The woman was taken to Bangladesh with other family members for what they had been told was a holiday.

But the parents had made extensive plans for her wedding to a first cousin.

She reacted against the plan and her father hit her, with her mother’s encouragement, the court heard.

Her father said he would “chop her up in 18 seconds” if she continued to reject the proposed marriage, the judge was told.

The woman managed to alert the police through her boyfriend in the UK and the court was played some of the messages she left on his phone.

Judge Simon Phillips QC said of the recordings: “Her terror and distress is palpable.”


Somalia announces first ever prosecution against FGM in historic move

All the people involved in the death of a 10-year old girl who underwent female genital mutilation (FGM) in Somalia will face prosecution as the government seeks to fight against the age-old tradition.

This would be the first-ever prosecution of FGM in the country.

Deeqa Dahir Nuur makes part of the 98 per cent of women and girls who have undergone FGM in Somalia.  She is also part of those who have died after the procedure.

Nuur underwent the procedure on July 14, and a cut in one of her veins caused her to bleed.  Unable to stem the bleeding, the family took the girl to Dhusmareb hospital, where she bled to death.

Somalia’s attorney general Ahmed Ali Dahir sent a team of 10 investigators to Nuur’s parents and the village cutter.

He made the comments at a media training session in the capital city, stating that the government is ready to go to court.

His announcement was backed by Deputy prime minister Mahdi Mohamed Gulaid who termed the announcement, “really a defining moment for Somalia.”

“It is not acceptable that in the 21st century FGM is continuing in Somalia. It should not be part of our culture. It is definitely not part of the Islamic religion. The prosecution of those involved in [Nuur’s death] will send a strong message to the country,” he said.



The warning signs that indicate a child could be being sexually exploited

A disproportionate number of victims of child sexual exploitation in Hounslow are Polish or from other Eastern European countries a council report reveals.

The report, which was presented before the council’s health and wellbeing board on Monday (July 16), highlights the worrying trend which mostly affects first generation immigrants.

According to children’s charity the NSPCC, child sexual exploitation, or CSE, can happen when young people may be tricked into believing they’re in a loving, consensual relationship when they are really being abused or exploited.

Some children and young people are also trafficked into or within the UK for the purpose of sexual exploitation and it can also happen to young people in gangs.

Victims might be invited to parties and given drugs and alcohol. They may also be groomed and exploited online.

Multi-agency groups working with Hounslow Council to tackle the problem, say they are trying to raise awareness of CSE within the Polish and other Eastern European communities and provide greater support for victims.

What are the signs a child is a victim?

Ealing Council put together this list of some of the signs to look out for:

*Unexplained gifts
*Unaffordable new things (clothes, mobile phones)
*Drug use, alcohol abuse
*Physical injuries
*Going missing from care/home, running away, homelessness
*Disengagement with school, not in school, truancy, exclusion
*Repeat sexually transmitted infections; in girls repeat pregnancy, terminations , miscarriage
*Inappropriate sexual behaviour or knowledge that is outside of what’s expected developmentally
*Sexually risk taking behaviour
*Association with older men or older boyfriends


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