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22 July 2014

135,000 FGM survivors in the UK, says new study

The number of female genital mutilation survivors in the UK is double the official NHS estimate, according to a new report.

By lucy Fisher

More than 135,000 women and girls in the UK are survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM), according to a new study. The figure is more than twice the previous official estimate by the NHS.

The report, produced by the City University London and human rights organisation Equality Now, estimated that more than 100,000 women aged 15 to 49 and around 24,000 women aged 50 and over who have migrated to England and Wales are living with the consequences of genital cutting.

It also predicted that 10,000 girls under the age of 15 have undergone FGM. Previous government figures predicted that 20,000 girls under the age of 15 may be at risk of the barbaric procedure. The new study revealed, however, that around 60,000 girls aged 0 to 14 were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone FGM, suggesting that the number at risk is far higher.

The study harvested information from surveys in 29 countries in which FGM is practised and cross-referenced it with data from the 2011 British census about women who had migrated from those countries. The number of victims of FGM could be even higher than estimated, as data from 2011 to 2014 was missing from the study.

Efua Dorkenoo, advisor on FGM to Equality Now, said: “The government need to get a handle over this extreme abuse of the most vulnerable girls in our society by implementing a robust national plan to address the issue. 

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“Professionals are crying out for clear cut guidance on referral pathways on early identification of girls potentially at risk and prevention; and protocols for documenting and sharing information on FGM between health, children social care, education and the police.”

Today the government, in partnership with Unicef, is hosting Girl Summit 2014, the UK’s first conference dedicated to tackling FGM and forced marriage.

Home Secretary Theresa May and International Development Secretary Justine Greening will be in attendance to announce new measures to tackle FGM at home and abroad.

In March this year the Prime Minister declared that tackling the “disgusting” practice of FGM would be “at the top of Britain’s aid agenda” and said that efforts to prosecute cutters in the UK would be redoubled. He stated his goal to make the practice obsolete “within a generation”.