Women and girls who have been affected by female genital mutilation (FGM) can be found in every local authority in England and Wales, according to a new report.
Almost one in 20 women in the London borough of Southwark is believed to have been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), according to a new report.
Researchers have also uncovered that over ten per cent of girls in the borough were born to a mother who had an FGM procedure. Brent had the second highest rate in London, with a 3.9 per cent rate compared with 0.5per cent across England and Wales as a whole.
FGM, which the UN has defined as a form of torture, is also an issue outside the capital, with Manchester, Slough, Bristol, Leicester and Birmingham being listed as cities with the highest rates, ranging from 1.2per cent to 1.6 per cent.
Milton Keynes, Cardiff, Coventry, Sheffield, Reading, Thurrock, Northampton and Oxford were estimated to have rates of more than 0.7 per cent.
The report by City University London and human rights organisation Equality Now said that no local authority area is likely to be free from the practice entirely. However, people born in countries where FGM is practised tend to be concentrated in urban areas.
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.
Separate studies have estimated that more than 20,000 girls under the age of 15 in the UK are at risk each year, yet very few cases are reported.
To make their findings, researchers assessed birth data from the Office for National Statistics in conjunction with separate findings published last year which showed that an estimated 137,000 women and girls affected by FGM and born in countries where it is practised live permanently in England and Wales.
The findings come as the Government is set to launch a consultation which will including plans on making it mandatory for all professionals, including doctors, nurses and teachers, to report FGM in under-18s.
Mary Wandia, FGM programme manager at Equality Now, said: "We hope that policy makers at all levels - including in local authorities - urgently respond to these new estimates."
She urged politicians to work to prevent the procedure, protest girls at risk, and support survivors.
Report author Alison Macfarlane, professor of perinatal health at City University London, said: "The figures in this report are estimates, based on numbers of women living in each area, who were born in countries where FGM is practised, and the prevalence of FGM in those countries.
"They suggest that women who have undergone FGM are living in virtually every part of England and Wales."
Professor Macfarlane called on women dealing with long-term complications of FGM to be supported.
She added: "It is important not to stigmatise women who have undergone FGM, or assume that their daughters are all at risk, as many families have given up FGM on migration and attitudes have changed in some of their countries of origin. On the other hand, others may have not given up FGM and it is important to safeguard their daughters."
Additional reporting by PAReuse content