Victims of female genital mutilation seen by Wigan health services

FGM in Wigan. Library image
FGM in Wigan. Library image

More than a dozen new victims of female genital mutilation were treated by Wigan medics last year.

The figures show the ongoing scale of the challenge to fight FGM across the UK, where thousands of new cases were recorded, shortly after the first person to be convicted of the “barbaric” act was jailed.

NHS Digital figures show that victims of FGM – where female genitals are cut, injured or changed for no medical reason – in Wigan were seen by NHS Services on at least 13 appointments in 2018.

Of those, at least four were having their injuries recorded by doctors, nurses or midwives for the first time. In areas where few cases were reported, exact numbers have been obscured to prevent identification.

Of the victims seen locally, the majority did not have the country where their injuries were inflicted recorded. For the appointments where this information was recorded, they were most commonly in Northern Africa. Most appointments concerned victims aged between 25 and 29, or between 30 and 34.

Across England, there were more than 8,500 appointments for women and girls with FGM at NHS services over the 12-month period, with nearly 4,000 having their injuries recorded for the first time. The NSPCC estimates that 137,000 people living in the UK are victims of FGM.

FGM is illegal in the UK. Carrying it out or assisting in it being conducted, either in the UK or abroad, can be punished with up to 14 years in prison.

At the start of March, a 37-year-old Ugandan woman was jailed for 13 years for cutting her three-year-old daughter, becoming the first person in the UK to be sentenced for FGM. Referring to the case, John Cameron, head of the NSPCC’s Childline, said: “This landmark case sends a very clear message that FGM will not be tolerated in this country under any circumstances.

“Some cultures consider FGM a necessary part of bringing up a young girl. There may even be pressures for families to conform. The truth is it is a horrific form of child abuse and a criminal offence which has no place in today’s society. If we want to protect girls from this dangerous and potentially life changing practice we need to talk about FGM, encourage people to seek help and advice and report any concerns if they believe a child has been cut or is about to be.”

As well as providing treatment for injuries sustained by FGM, NHS services also advise patients on its illegality and provide advice on its long-term health implications.

FGM is most commonly carried out within communities from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and young girls are often flown abroad for ceremonies where FGM is performed. It is seen by some patriarchal religions and societies as a means of suppressing women’s sexuality, so making them less likely to stray.