"Thousands of girls at risk" - child protection groups
Bristol child protection groups claim thousands of girls in the city are at risk of genital mutilation.
They say that about 2,000 girls in Bristol are at risk of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) this summer – a practise which involve the partial or total removal of external female genitalia.
A new campaign to highlight the risk to young girls in the holidays has been launched today.
The procedure, which is illegal in the UK, carries the risk of death from bleeding or tetanus and long term problems including incontinence, recurrent infections and chronic pain.
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Child protection groups claim girls from the city are taken out of the country during the summer holidays to countries which practise FGM where they undergo the procedure, often with only rudimentary medical care.
It is a cultural practice carried out in more than 28 African countries, some Asian and South American countries and Afghanistan, Iraq and some Kurdish communities.
Co-ordinated by the Bristol Safeguarding Children’s Board, a series of events have been planned to raise awareness of the issue.
Chair of the Bristol Safeguarding Children Board, Professor Ray Jones, said: “Although Bristol has already done a lot of work in this area, it is important we continue to remind people that FGM is a form of child abuse. It is illegal for any UK citizen to have any form of FGM and the law extends this protection to women and girls if they are taken outside the country.
“The school summer holidays is known to be a time of risk and I’m pleased to see this programme of activity from both statutory organisations and community groups, presenting a united front against the practice.”
The summer campaign has been launched at the City Academy in Redfield, where a group of 27 young women produced a drama documentary on the issue of FGM last year.
Silent Scream won a First Light’s Young Voice award.
Sadumo Abukar, aged 15, worked on the script for the film and did some filming.
She said: “With the summer approaching, this campaign is very important, as this is the time of year girls are most at risk from being taken abroad for FGM to be carried out. We hope the film raises awareness in schools and encourages people to talk about FGM, giving people the confidence to say ‘this is wrong’. If anyone thinks they, or a friend, might be at risk of FGM, please don’t stay silent.”
Detective Inspector Gary Stephens, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: "Avon and Somerset Constabulary are fully committed to working with our partners and the local communities in tackling the issue of FGM.
"This is a practice that has been illegal in the UK for some time and it is also illegal to arrange for it to take place outside of the UK.
"FGM is a form of child abuse that can have significant long term effects on victims and it is important we all work together to eradicate it. Whilst our priorities are first and foremost supporting our partners with education and prevention we will act promptly where concerns are raised."
Jackie Mathers, the designated nurse for Safeguarding Children, NHS Bristol, says the real driving force for change is coming from the women and children within the communities themselves.
Here is a video of her explaining the issue: