islington

FGM is practiced in parts of Africa and the Middle East. Pic: Julien Behal/PAto

Shocking figures reveal nearly 2,000 young girls in Islington at risk of violent genital mutilation

Thursday, January 24, 2013
6.31 AM

Report also shows that the Whittington Hospital in Archway has seen 727 cases in the last five years

Almost 2,000 young women in Islington are thought to be in danger of suffering an archaic and violent disfigurement practice.

A new report estimates that 1,800 girls under the age of 18 – about 10 per cent of the population – are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM), with 1,300 classified as high risk.

Meanwhile the Whittington Hospital in Magdala Avenue, Archway, reported 727 referrals associated with FGM between 2004 and 2009 – with numbers increasing every year.

The hospital’s midwifery department performed 127 operations to reverse the mutilation, which is defined as the removal of external female genitalia. It is common in some parts of Africa and the Middle East in order to preserve virginity or promote fidelity.

Islington Council came up with the risk figures based on the borough’s population from these countries.

And an investigation by the Gazette revealed at least one arrest has been made for FGM in recent years – a 39-year-old woman suspected of having flown a 13-year-old girl to Kenya for the procedure.

Cllr Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for community safety, said: “This is really going on in Islington. We don’t know exactly how much because a fog of mystery surrounds it, but it is happening.

“FGM is a crime. We have no hesitation in saying that. It is a child abuse crime and a horrible act of violence against young women.

“People get nervous even talking about it – it makes them shudder and it makes me shudder. It’s a sensitive issue because some people believe it’s a cultural practice steeped in tradition.

“Well, we are very clear; that cuts no ice. We respect cultures, faiths and traditions that come to Islington but we have standards and laws. This stuff happened in medieval Britain, but it does not happen in modern Britain.

‘‘It’s an abhorrent practice that has no justification at all.”

The report’s list of potential consequences for victims of FGM include infection, infertility, complications during pregnancy, as well as depression and anxiety.

One of the main thrusts of the borough’s fight against the abuse is heading into schools to raise awareness of the problem – although some staff have reported difficulties as parents don’t want the issue discussed in front of the children.

Cllr Convery added: “A lot of communities who settle in Britain from overseas really know the value of education and respect it and appreciate it as a way for their children to do better.

“We can do as many investigations as we like, but the single most effective way to help and influence young women is to show them they are strong enough to say no.”