FGM victims 'in every part of England and Wales'

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Victims of female genital mutilation are likely to be living in every area of England and Wales, a report says.

FGM victims tend to be concentrated in cities, especially London, but no local authority area is "likely to be free from FGM entirely", City University London and Equality Now found.

Southwark in London had the highest FGM prevalence; an estimated 4.7% of women.

Highest estimates elsewhere were for Manchester, Slough, Bristol, Leicester and Birmingham - ranging from 1.2-1.6%.

The study, funded by charity Trust for London and the Home Office, concluded that all areas of England and Wales needed services and strategies to meet the needs of FGM victims.

'Countries in conflict'

FGM, sometimes called female circumcision, refers to procedures including the partial or total removal of external female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is illegal in the UK.

The NHS says FGM is prevalent in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and is carried out for "cultural, religious and social reasons". It can cause issues including severe pain, infections, pregnancy complications and even death.

To reach their estimates, researchers combined responses to surveys in countries where FGM is practised with 2011 UK census data about women who were born in those countries.

They said:

  • an estimated 137,000 women living in England and Wales (0.48 of the female population) were born in countries where FGM was practised and had been subject to it themselves
  • this included 103,000 women aged 15-49
  • in 2001, the estimated figure for women aged 15-49 was 66,000
  • this increase was "especially due to migration from countries in conflict"
  • women with FGM made up an estimated 1.5% of mothers giving birth in England and Wales since 2008

'Safeguard daughters'

Mary Wandia, FGM programme manager at Equality Now, a human rights organisation, said: "We hope that policy makers at all levels - including in local authorities - urgently respond to these new estimates."

She said this response should include prevention, support for survivors and other measures to ensure work was "joined up and effective at every level".

Report author Prof Alison Macfarlane, of City University London, said: "It is important not to stigmatise women who have undergone FGM, or assume that their daughters are all at risk, as many families have given up FGM on migration and attitudes have changed in some of their countries of origin.

"On the other hand, others may have not given up FGM and it is important to safeguard their daughters."

The report does not address the issue of FGM being carried out in the UK, but separate research has estimated that 65,000 girls under the age of 13 are "at risk".

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