A helpline setup to uncover the hidden abuse of female genital mutilation in the UK is referring a growing number of calls to the police and children’s services.
The NSPCC’s FGM helpline, which has been in place for seven months, has already received 153 calls of which 40% of cases have been handed over to local authorities, whilst the remaining 60% have been offered specialist FGM advice.
FGM helpline practitioner Kamaljit Thandi: “We know that it can be hard for people to report suspected or potential FGM abuse and it’s brave of them to do so. We’re here to talk to people about any concern in this area, and anonymously if they wish.
“FGM is a hidden crime and the fact that teachers, health professionals, parents and other adults in communities where FGM takes place are contacting the NSPCC’s helpline is another step towards bringing this abuse into the open.
“Although we are encouraged by the number of calls we are receiving we believe this is just the tip of the iceberg. Together working with the Government, police and campaigners we need to get the message out there - FGM is child abuse and it needs to stop.”
The free, 24 hour contact service was put in place after the NSPCC discovered that more than 1,700 victims of FGM were referred to specialist clinics in the last two years – including children as young as seven.
Midwives, doctors and teachers, make up 41% of all referrals, with 22% made following calls from worried parents, carers and other relatives, many of whom have separated from their partners and are frightened their own child is at risk of the practice.
Since June, helpline practitioners have also spoken to members of the public mostly from inside African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities in the UK where the initiation ritual is most prevalent, making up 23% of referrals.
FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, but there has yet to be a prosecution. For more information visit www.nspcc.org.uk