Yet in the U.S., a judge has ruled that prosecuting a FGM doctor is unconstitutional. WTF?
The number of girls in England who have experienced or are believed to be at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) has more than doubled in a year, according to assessments by council social workers.
Analysis of government figures shows that FGM featured in 1,960 social work assessments in 2017-18 – more than twice the 970 cases reported in the previous year.
The figures were described as alarming by those working in the field, who said the increase was due mainly to better detection by social workers. Experts said the real incidence of FGM is likely to be far higher, however, as it remains a largely hidden crime.
The analysis, by the Local Government Association, also reveals that abuse of children linked to faith or belief – including witchcraft and spirit possession – has gone up by 12%.
More than 30 cases a week are now coming to the attention of social work teams, with 1,630 cases in 2017-18, up from 1,460 cases the previous year. The figures were drawn from analysis of government statistics on children in need.
Anita Lower, LGA lead on FGM, said: “These figures show the worrying prevalence of FGM, which is ruining lives and destroying communities.
“At a time when they should be preparing for adult life and enjoying being young, no girl or young woman should be subject to the horrors of genital mutilation, which is child abuse and cannot be justified for any reason.”
The LGA is calling for additional government funding for children’s services and also for the National FGM Centre – a joint initiative between the LGA and Barnardo’s, which works in communities supporting those affected by FGM and building relationships with families to try to prevent it.
Over the past two and a half years, the centre has worked with 354 families and has been involved with 22 FGM protection orders. These impose conditions to protect victims or potential victims such as surrendering a passport so a girl cannot be taken abroad for FGM. The centre’s staff also work with police at airports, raising awareness about FGM.
Leethen Bartholomew, head of the centre, said: “Whilst we are making progress in tackling FGM, these alarming statistics show it is still being practised in communities across England. Even more concerning is that these figures are likely to just be the tip of the iceberg because many cases of FGM go undetected.
“The National FGM Centre’s work includes training social workers to become better at identifying girls who may be at risk of undergoing the practice, and to know how to report it.
“This includes developing an online assessment tool so they are guided through the right questions to ask families. This is vital because the sooner they identify a potential case, the sooner action can be taken to protect the girl in question.”
These latest figures are part of a wider picture of growing pressure on children’s services, with councils warning of a £3bn funding gap by 2025. According to the LGA, social workers are opening “episode of need” cases for more than 1,000 children every day, and more than half involve abuse or neglect.
Responding to the analysis, a government spokesperson said: “Violence and abuse is unacceptable in any context. Children must be kept safe, and no belief system can justify the abuse of a child.
“Those responsible for child abuse linked to faith or belief would be subject to prosecution. Our statutory guidance is clear that anyone who has concerns about a child’s welfare should report this to children’s social care or the police.”
If they protect girls from FGM like they protect them from Muslim rape gangs, these girls are in trouble.