Merseyside’s Police Commissioner and Merseyside Police have joined forces to pledge their support ahead of International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation this weekend.
The UN marks the international awareness-raising day every on February 6th with the aim of increasing understanding and awareness of this harmful practice which affects millions of women and girls worldwide.
Female Genital Mutilation or FGM, as it is commonly known, refers to all procedures which involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is recognised as a violation of the human rights of girls and women and is also sometimes referred to as female circumcision or cutting.
Globally, it is estimated that between 100 million to 140 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of genital mutilation. A further three million girls are thought to be at risk of mutilation each year. If current trends continue, 15 million additional girls between the ages of 15 and 19 will be subjected to it by 2030.
In the UK, it is estimated that 137,000 women have been affected by genital mutilation however, the true extent is unknown, due to the hidden nature of the crime.
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said: ““Female genital mutilation is a barbaric practice that has no place in today’s society.
“Raising awareness of the risks and signs of FGM within our communities and among key agencies and professionals is vital if we are to protect women and girls from harm.
“FGM is not only illegal, it is life-threatening, and it can leave its young victims in real agony with long-term physical and psychological problems.
“While FGM is a deeply sensitive subject, there are no cultural, religious or medical reasons that can ever justify a practice that causes so much suffering. We need everyone to understand FGM is child abuse, it’s illegal and it will not be tolerated.
“I would urge anyone who has been affected by FGM or knows someone who has to come forward confident in the knowledge they will be helped and supported.”
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Kameen from Merseyside Police’s specialist Protecting Vulnerable People Team said: “We are proud to be among many police forces throughout the UK that are supporting International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. This practice is largely perpetuated against children in secret and often without anaesthetic leaving the poor victim in absolute agony and is nothing short of child abuse.
“It is a global problem but one that also exists here in Merseyside, although the true scale is not yet known.
“It is important that we all start talking about FGM as an issue so that it is no longer a taboo amongst communities themselves or the agencies and charities that are there to help them. Frontline police officers and health professionals are now getting the training they need to recognise the signs of FGM taking place and what to do if someone reports it having happened to them or a friend.
“By understanding better what has happened to the victims of this terrible crime, we will be able to gather the evidence we need to bring to justice the people who carry it out.
“The force has officers who are specially trained to investigate offences robustly but also with sensitivity and I would encourage anyone who is a victim or has information to find the courage to come forward and speak to us. People can call officers on 0151 777 4088 or the non-emergency 101 number.”
If you’re worried about FGM or have concerns about a child being or becoming a victim, you can also call the free 24-hour advice and support line run by the NSPCC on 0800 028 3550 or email firstname.lastname@example.org