DETECTIVES are investigating cases of female genital mutilation in Wigan.
Local police and commissioner Tony Lloyd today claimed that up to 2,000 girls were at risk across Greater Manchester from this “barbaric” practice.
And the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities’ lead on police and crime, Coun Mike Connolly, said he had heard reports of incidents in the Wigan borough.
Wigan Council is among signatories to a regional-wide pledge to tackle the problem.
In the past two days, police have also intercepted 20 families at Manchester Airport, mostly on flights from Africa.
FGM involves procedures that include the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs for cultural or other non-medical reasons.
Although banned in the UK, thousands of girls are subjected to FGM each year, with Greater Manchester identified as one of six “hotspots” in the UK.
Based on intelligence from community members, officers stopped specific families at Manchester Airport returning on flights from countries such as Somalia.
Jaria Hussain-Lala from the Greater Manchester FGM Forum said: “The health impacts are immense. We have to remember it’s mainly carried out by medically untrained professionals and that the same instruments are used to cut several girls.”
And Wigan Infirmary chiefs say they are introducing new procedures and working with other partners to help educate staff on the issue of FGM.
A spokesman for Wrightington Wigan Leigh NHS Foundation Trsut (WWL) said: “As a foundation trust we have a duty to safeguard young women and girls at risk of FGM.
“We are currently working closely with both our governance and organisational learning and development teams to look at ways of raising awareness of FGM within WWL.
“Women’s and children’s services have robust guidelines and safeguarding polices regarding FGM.
“There is currently a trust wide Working Group which is looking at the issue of FGM, particularly in light of the increase in occurrences.
“Wigan Council and partner agencies including Health Services are signed up to the Manchester Safeguarding Partnership and also are aligned to Wigan Local Children’s Board. We adopt Manchester Safeguarding Partnership overarching Policies and Procedures around FGM to inform our local Polices and guidelines.
“We continue to work closely with the local authority in Wigan, Greater Manchester Police and all partner agencies to discuss ways in which we can continue to improve awareness of FGM in the Wigan area.”
Practised in 29 countries in Africa and some countries in Asia and the Middle East, an estimated three million girls and women worldwide are at risk each year.
About 125 million victims estimated to be living with the consequences. It is commonly carried out on young girls, often between infancy and the age of 15.
Often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, to prepare a girl or woman for adulthood and marriage and to ensure “pure femininity.”
Dangers include severe bleeding, problems urinating, infections, infertility and increased risk of newborn deaths in childbirth.
In December 2012, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution calling for all member states to ban the practice.
Mr Lloyd has made tackling FGM one of his priorities as police and crime commissioner. He said it was “tantamount to child abuse.”
Frontline staff police staff will be taught how to spot the signs of FGM, identify vulnerable young girls and how to protect and help girls at risk.