Avon and Somerset Police has launched its summer campaign to raise awareness about female genital mutilation, beginning this week with a series of events involving community safety stakeholders. Information about the practice will subsequently also be made available through health and social care partners, as well as via a Facebook event page.
Speaking of the initiative, Detective Inspector Katie Boxer said: "We are pleased to be involved in this project and continue to work with our partners and support all the work taking place to raise awareness of this painful and unnecessary practice.
"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. Our priorities are first and foremost the protection of those at risk and the prevention of this form of abuse. We continue to support our partners with education and prevention and we will act promptly where concerns are raised and where there is evidence of any crime we will act to enforce the law."
Lifelong health & emotional implications
Female genital mutilation is a cultural practice carried out in some ethnic minority communities, involving the partial or total removal of external female genitalia. It can carry the risk of death from bleeding or tetanus, as well as the possibility of long-term, recurrent infections. According to statistics released by Avon and Somerset, it is estimated that around 2,000 girls are at risk from the practice in Bristol alone.
DI Boxer continued: "Female genital mutilation is often not spoken about but it should be as it is a very serious crime which we take extremely seriously. We are here to support our communities and we urge any young women who are at risk to come forward and let us know so we can help you. We understand this is hard but we and our partners understand and can help."
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: "Tackling violence against women and children is one of my key priorities highlighted in the Police and Crime Plan and forms the heart of the work carried out by many specialist organisations across Avon and Somerset.
"Female Genital Mutilation is an illegal and violent form of child abuse that has lifelong health and emotional implications. I am extremely supportive of the work already underway to explore and address FGM as an issue within our communities. It is imperative that we continue to raise understanding and awareness of this unacceptable and illegal practice."