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Victims of FGM encouraged to tell police amid concerns it is underreported

West Mercia Police is marking United Nations International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) by reinforcing its commitment to eradicating the practice.

Victims and people at risk of FGM are being urged to seek support amid concerns it is underreported in the UK.

Today (Wednesday 6 February) police officers and other agencies are attending an event in Birmingham to mark the international awareness day. The event entitled 'Harmful Cultural Practices, Witchcraft and FGM: A Partnership Approach' aims to raise awareness of the practice, which affects an estimated 137,000 women and girls in the UK at risk.

FGM is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed for no medical reason. It is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15. It is illegal in the UK and is considered a form of child abuse.

FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985 and last week saw the first successful prosecution when a 37-year-old woman was convicted of the offence at the Old Bailey.

It is also illegal for any UK national or permanent resident to travel abroad, or aid someone to travel abroad, for the procedure to be carried out.

Detective Chief Inspector Jon Belcher, FGM lead for Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police, explains: "Every area of the country is affected by this issue and the West Mercia policing area is no exception. We are committed to playing our part in eradicating the practice.

"It is important that everyone is on the lookout for the signs of FGM and report concerns to the police. We have officers who are specially trained to work with victims and offer them protection and support.

"Both Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police are committed to working with the community and our partners to end FGM in our areas."

Signs that a girl is at immediate risk of FGM

  • A long holiday abroad or going 'home' to visit family
  • Unexpected, repeated or prolonged absence from school
  • A relative or other person visiting from abroad
  • A special occasion or ceremony to 'become a woman' or get her ready for marriage
  • A female relative being cut.

Signs a girl may have been a victim of FGM

  • Having difficulty walking, standing or sitting
  • Spending longer in the bathroom or toilet
  • Appearing withdrawn, anxious or depressed
  • Unusual behaviour after an absence from school or college
  • Reluctance to undergo normal medical examinations
  • Asking for help, but may not be explicit about the problem due to embarrassment or fear.

Anyone with concerns that a girl is at risk of FGM or has been a victim of FGM should call police on 101. If a girl is at immediate risk then call 999.

Information can also be provided anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Published 06/02/19