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The latest alarming figures analysed by charity Plan International UK reveal the prevalence of female genital mutilation and why it’s crucially important that victims have access to the right support. 

Between April 2015 and March 2016, NHS statistics revealed there were 8,656 times when a girl or woman was assessed for FGM at either a hospital or doctors surgery. That’s almost one every hour.

In speaking to the BBC, the chief executive of charity, Tanya Barron said: "These figures are once again a reminder of the global prevalence of FGM”.

For the majority of those assessed, it was the first time the NHS had documented their case, even though many would have been cut many years before. 

Almost 140,000 women and girls in the UK are estimated to be victims of FGM and social workers, along with other professionals working in statutory services have a mandatory duty to report cases of FGM involving those under the age of 18 to the police. 

It can be incredibly difficult to identify if somebody is at risk of FGM though, despite the fact that FGM protection orders were introduced in the UK in July 2015 to safeguard girls at risk of FGM. Like many other forms of coercive-based forms of abuse, there are often no obvious physical signs that can be observed to alert professionals. This is perhaps one of the reasons why there have been just 97 applications and 79 FGM orders made up until September 2016; a comparatively low number compared to the estimated prevalence. 

Renewed focus to secure prosecutions

There is a renewed focus on the fight against FGM though. Commander Mak Chishty, the police national lead, has written to every police force to remind them that although there has been some progress, there is yet to be a successful prosecution for FGM. 

One-day FGM training in London

The police it seems, are still reliant on other professionals to identify cases where those under 18 are at risk of FGM. So, what more can the social work community do? Sanctuary Training tutor, Bal Howard, who worked for the police for seven and a half years on preventing honour based violence, including FGM and force marriage, will be walking attendees through the various steps they can take at a training session in London on 24 May 2017. 

To book your place, visit Sanctuary Training’s Honour Based Violence course booking page

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