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UK announces new measures to end female genital mutilation

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Today marks the eleventh International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a United Nations-sponsored event that is held on February 6 of each year.

While this barbaric practice continues in certain African and Middle Eastern nations, it is has been illegal in the UK since 1985 and is an criminal offence for anyone to perform FGM (also known as female circumcision) in the UK or to arrange for a girl to be taken abroad for it.

The practice carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, but to date, no-one in Britain has been prosecuted for it.

According to the NHS, it has been estimated that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK each year, and that 66,000 women in the UK are living with the consequences of FGM.

However, the true extent is unknown due to the 'hidden' nature of the crime, but for the first time ever, it will be mandatory for all NHS acute hospitals to provide information on patients who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).

From April this year NHS hospitals will be required to record if a patient has had FGM, if there is a family history of FGM, and if an FGM-related procedure has been carried out on a woman.

By September this year, all acute hospitals must report this data centrally to the Department of Health on a monthly basis which will help in providing more information on the incidence and prevalence of FGM.

This will be the first stage of a wider ranging program of work in development to improve the way in which the NHS will respond to the health needs of girls and women who have suffered FGM and actively support prevention.

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: “Female Genital Mutilation is an abhorrent practice that has no place in this – or any other – society. In order to combat it and ensure we can care properly for the girls and women who have undergone mutilation we need to build a more accurate nationwide picture of the challenge. This is the first step towards doing that.”

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