Seventeen female genital mutilation cases in Belfast in just nine months
There were 17 cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Belfast Trust area in just over nine months, new figures have shown.
Figures obtained by the BBC through freedom of information requests show the incidents were recorded in women aged 24 to 46 between April 2017 and January 2018.
For a period between January 2016 and January 2018 it was found there were less than five cases in the Western and Northern trusts, less than 10 recorded cases in the South Eastern Trust and no recorded cases in the Southern Trust.
FGM is illegal in the United Kingdom, and defined by the NHS as "a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but where there's no medical reason for this to be done".
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Despite this across the United Kingdom there are high number of incidents of FGM, with a report from City University in London last year estimated there were 137,000 women and girls living with FGM in England and Wales.
Medical professionals in England are required to report new cases of FGM, a rule which does not exist in Northern Ireland.
Last year a report commissioned by the African and Caribbean Support Northern Ireland, produced by academics from Ulster University, Queen's University, and the University of Liverpool, noted there was a lack of information about the prevalence of FGM in Northern Ireland.
It also pointed to gaps in services and provisions in place for sufferers of FGM in Northern Ireland, and said healthcare professionals were often unclear "what services exist and what is needed by girls and women" who have suffered procedures.
FGM is carried out for a mix of cultural, religious and social reasons, and is practiced in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Belfast Telegraph Digital