The Home Office has launched a new drive to tackle the “hidden crime” of female genital mutilation.
Materials highlighting the potential consequences of the practice will be distributed into communities where statistics suggest it is more prevalent.
Titled Let’s Protect Our Girls, the campaign is the latest attempt to clamp down on FGM, which comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, according to the World Health Organisation’s definition.
A 2015 study estimated that 137,000 women and girls who have migrated to England and Wales are living with the consequences of FGM.
NHS England statistics released in July show that between April 2017 and March this year, 6,195 individual women and girls had FGM identified or treatment related to it.
The practice has been illegal in the UK since 1985 but authorities have faced criticism over the failure to secure a single conviction.
The new initiative aims to raise awareness over possible effects of FGM, including childbirth complications, period problems, mental health issues and urinary infections.
The campaign will be placed into communities where, according to statistics, FGM may be most prevalent, the Home Office said.
These include Sudanese, Somalian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Egyptian, Iraqi, Gambian and Nigerian communities, the department added.
Activity will be focused in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Leicester, Birmingham and Sheffield.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Female genital mutilation has no place in modern society.
“It is repulsive, unethical and leaves victims with emotional and physical scars that last a lifetime.
“We have launched this important campaign to make it clear to everyone that the practice is illegal and has serious health consequences.
“I urge everyone to help protect girls at risk by spreading the messages.”
The campaign will signpost people who want more information to the NSPCC.
John Cameron, the charity’s head of helplines, said: “We know from calls to our dedicated helpline that female genital mutilation is still affecting hundreds of girls in the UK.
“Sadly, the true picture of how many are affected is unknown because for far too long FGM has been cloaked in secrecy.
“We hope this campaign will help to end the silence that surrounds FGM by encouraging young people and any adults worried about them to speak out and get help.
“By joining forces across communities, we can bring an end to this dangerous and illegal practice.”
– The NSPCC’s FGM helpline is on 0800 028 3550. Further information can be found at http://nspcc.org.uk/fgm