Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have taken opportunity of the UN-sponsored International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), held on February 6th, to raise awareness of work being carried out to prevent the practice within the Greater Manchester community.
FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia or injury to the female genital organs, whether for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reasons, and is prevalent in countries in central and northern Africa and parts of Asia. It is allegedly carried out to safeguard a young woman’s virginity and her family’s honour, and can involve a festival or celebration as part of the ceremony.
GMP have been working over the last 12 months to create greater co-operation between all the agencies involved in dealing with the aftermath of FGM, including Manchester Airport. Further to this, they have been working alongside Manchester schools and members of local health and social care, resulting in a significant increase in the number of cases being referred to GMP over the last year.
Detective Chief Superintendent Vanessa Jardine said: “FGM is child abuse. We have to be clear with those that practice FGM that it is an offence and will not be tolerated.
“Whilst we wish to educate communities to understand the practice and the horrific nature of carrying out the procedure, we also need to stress that abuse of this nature is a very serious offence and will be investigated fully. The position could not be clearer under the UK law.
“As a force we have taken part in a number of awareness raising activities to increase understanding and to support those ‘at risk communities’. It reinforces the position that FGM is illegal and is considered as physical child abuse. This has included work with the airport and UK Border Agency to look for suspicious activity and support potential victims of FGM. By educating passengers there have been a number of referrals across the north of England regarding the practice.
“We are committed to continue our proactive operations at Manchester Airport. Intelligence from affected communities tells us that in the past children have been taken abroad for the purpose of FGM over the summer holidays. Our communities have to understand that the law prevents such practices when done in the UK or equally abroad. Anyone found committing FGM will be held to account.”
DCS Jardine added: “There has been a lot of work take place between organisations such as the Greater Manchester FGM Forum to increase awareness and cooperation between agencies. We are continuing to look into reported cases of FGM and the increase in these is encouraging.”
In the UK, there is a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison for anyone found guilty of the offence. Taking someone overseas is still a crime in the UK if the mutilation is done by a UK national or permanent UK resident. It is also a crime if a UK national or permanent resident assists or gets a non-UK national or permanent resident to carry out the acts overseas on a UK national or permanent resident.
For full guidelines on FGM and the law, visit the Home Office website. Anyone with concerns is asked to contact a teacher or doctor, and police on 101, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or the FGM Helpline on 0800 028 3550.