An expert has warned that the figure could be the “tip of the iceberg”
A case of female genital mutilation (FGM) is reported in England every 109 minutes new figures show – however experts warn this could be the “tip of the iceburg”.
The latest six months figures published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that 2,421 cases of FGM were reported between April and September 2015.
The statistics include newly recorded cases of women who were cut many years ago, but have only now approached the authorities.
FGM is carried out for cultural, religious and social reasons within families and communities where it is believed to be a necessary preparation for adulthood and marriage. However, the procedures do not have a medical basis.
Along with mental illnesses, FGM can cause chronic physical issues including vaginal and pelvic infections, abnormal periods, persistent urine infections, possible kidney failure and infertility, according the NHS.
Tanya Barron, the chief executive of the anti-FGM charity Plan UK which collected the figures, said: “FGM has been a hidden danger threatening girls in the UK and around the world – only now is the full scale becoming clear.
“Recognising that FGM is a fundamental abuse of girls’ rights is the first step to ending the practice.”
However, she predicted that the true number of cases could be higher because many remain “unseen, unheard”.
Some 1,385 cases were reported between July and September 2015, with 758 of these in London, 227 in the Midlands and east of England, 245 in the North, and 155 in the South.
Children’s charity Barnado’s stressed that while cases were concentrated in urban areas such as London, no area is immune to the pratice.
The charity, which along with the Local Government Association runs the National FGM Centre, said it has received 41 referrals relating to 56 girls at risk of FGM in the past three months in “low diversity” towns and cities.
The figures were released as Unicef said that more than 200million females have experienced FGM worldwide – 70 million more than previously thought.
“If current trends continue the number of girls and women subjected to FGM will increase significantly over the next 15 years,” the organisation warned.
Brendan Wynne, a spokesman for Equality Now, said the latest figures are “just the tip of the iceburg” after the human rights organisation estimated in 2014 that 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales have been cut.
He said a law obligating healthcare professionals to report cases of FGM was an important step in tackling the practice, but said children must be education better in schools.
Nimco Ali was cut as a seven year-old while on holiday in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. She has since established the charity Daughters of Eve to protect women from FGM.
Describing FGM as a “brutal practice”, she told the Press Association it was “very simple to end”.
“If you stop one woman having FGM done to her then you break that link and prevent is being done to the next generation.
“I came from a family that was 100 per cent FGM and that has gone down to zero in a generation. It is something that can be ended.
“We are finally shaking the taboo of FGM, but we have to be vigilant and cannot be complacent.”