Campaigners protested in central London against the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).
The demonstration came as it was revealed that a new telephone hotline designed to curb the practice of “cutting”, as it is called, had received nearly 40 calls since opening last month.
FGM – which the World Health Organisation classifies as procedures involving the “partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons” – is usually performed on girls before puberty, with the goal of inhibiting feelings of sexual desire. The procedure is often carried out without anaesthetic, using knives, scissors, razor blades or pieces of broken glass.
Since the 1985 Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act, FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK, yet nobody has been successfully convicted of the crime, in contrast to more than 100 convictions in France since 1988.
In today’s Independent on Sunday, Joan Smith, co-chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls panel, says the hotline is part of a new police strategy aimed at improving intelligence on the crime and helping officers to prevent it.