Bedfordshire Police obtains first ever FGM protection order over two young girls

It is feared the girls were being taken to Africa to undergo the devastating procedure

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The Independent Online

Bedfordshire Police have obtained the first female genital mutilation (FGM) protection order to prevent two young girls from leaving the country.

Officers believe that the children were in danger of being taken to Africa to undergo the devastating procedure.

The order was issued by a Bedfordshire court on the day that a new law allowing them came into force.

The measures enable officials to seize the passports of people who they suspect are attempting to take girls abroad to undergo FGM. Breaching the order is a criminal offence.

FGM is carried out for cultural, religious and social reasons within families and communities where it is believed to be a necessary preparation for adulthood and marriage. However, the procedures are not medically necessary.

Along with mental illnesses, FGM can cause chronic physical issues including vaginal and pelvic infections, abnormal periods, persistent urine infections, possible kidney failure and infertility, according the NHS.

Some parents who believe that the procedure is necessary use the school holidays as an opportunity to girls abroad where they are operated on. It is estimated that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 in the UK may be at risk, yet very few cases are reported.

Detective Chief Inspector Nick Bellingham, of the force's Public Protection Unit, called the legislation a "positive step forward in the fight against this horrific, cruel crime."

"With schools breaking up for the summer holidays today, we will continue to use this legislation where needed to prevent young girls who we believe may be at risk from being taken out of the country.

"This is child abuse, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that children are kept safe and that those responsible are caught."

He went on to urge anyone who suspects that a child is at risk of FGM to contact the police immediately.

A lengthy absence from school, health problems including bladder and menstrual issues, complaints about pain between the legs, and behavioural changes, are said to indicate that a child may have been subjected to FGM.

A girl may also talk about being taken away for a special ceremony, or say something has happened to them which they are not allowed to talk about.

Anyone seeking more help and information about FGM is asked to contact police on 101, or the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) on 0800 028 3550 - a dedicated FGM helpline.

Additional reporting by PA