The figures, revealed by the Standard today, are the most dramatic
illustration so far of the impact of the barbaric practice in the
capital. They also show that 298 operations to reverse unlawful
“cutting” of London women have been carried out.
others have received treatment in an attempt to ease their pain. Cases
include one girl with an “open wound” and at least 12 more involving
children. The statistics have been drawn from Freedom of Information
requests to seven London hospital trusts with specialist services for
FGM victims. They represent the most comprehensive measure yet of the
problem. A total of 2,115 FGM patients were seen between 2010 and summer
Doctors and campaigners said the findings were
“horrifying” and called for a renewed drive by police, prosecutors and
others to bring perpetrators of the crime to justice. But they warned
that the reluctance of some women to seek treatment, and flaws in
hospital record-keeping, including the lack of a specific code to
identify FGM cases, meant that the true number of victims was certain to
be even higher.
Dr Comfort Momoh, a specialist in treating FGM
who runs the African Well Woman’s Clinic at St Thomas’ Hospital, said:
“These statistics show a very significant number of women are being
treated for FGM, but there are still lots out there who are not being
identified because they don’t know where to go for help, aren’t being
referred by GPs or are too scared to come forward.
worried about girls, in particular. Where are they going to seek help?
The GPs who are their first point of call often don’t have the
knowledge. We also need teachers and lecturers to do more to at least
signpost girls towards help.”
Dr Momoh said new guidelines from
the Department of Health and medical professional bodies were essential,
so information about victims and girls at risk could be passed to
social services and other agencies without deterring women from
reporting their plight.
She added: “FGM can cause lifelong pain
and the pyschological impact can be really severe, with women suffering
flashbacks every time they have sexual relations. Much more must be done
to prevent it.”
Efua Dorkenoo, of charity Equality Now, said:
“These figures highlight the horrifying scale of this criminal practice
and prove, once again, that too little is happening to stop women and
girls from suffering. This is a growing problem, which requires
investment in prevention. The Government needs to implement a national
action plan, which recognises the need to treat survivors physically and
emotionally — but which also focuses on preventing FGM from happening
in the first place.”
Among the victims who have spoken out in a
bid to prevent more girls suffering is Londoner Nimco Ali, 29. She was
taken to Somalia to be cut at the age of seven and now runs the
Daughters of Eve charity, which helps victims and girls at risk of
The data, which covers women and girls treated for FGM
since the start of 2010, shows the African Well Woman’s Clinic has had
the largest number of patients. It treated 927 victims, including 178
who had surgery to reverse FGM between 2010 and the end of 2012. Further
such operations have been conducted this year.
The number and age
of the child victims is said to be low, but is not being revealed by
the hospital, which says the girls could be “potentially identified” by
such disclosure. Bart’s Health NHS trust, which runs Mile End, the
Royal London, Whipps Cross and Barts hospitals, said it had treated five
Estimates have suggested 20,000 girls are at risk of being mutilated in England and Wales.
The NSPCC has set up a helpline on the issue, on 0800 028 3550.