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UK girls at risk of mutilation abroad

Thousands of British schoolgirls as young as eight face being taken abroad this summer to have their genitals mutilated and stitched up to preserve "purity".

A campaign by the Metropolitan Police and Foreign Office will suggest that more than 22,000 girls under the age of 15 risk being taken abroad by their family for "cutting", based on data from The International Centre for Reproductive Health.

Campaigners say the victims are being failed by a lack of awareness from teachers and neighbours.

Girls may have their outer genitals removed and stitched up to preserve their virginity, with an opening as small as a matchstick head, meaning it can take up to 20 minutes to urinate.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is most common in Muslim areas, from North Africa to the Far East, although Koranic scholars have proclaimed it incompatible with Islam. Engaging or assisting in it carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years in the UK.

A specialist with the Metropolitan Police, Detective Sergeant Vicky Washington, said: "There are no legitimate cultural or religious reasons for FGM – it's child abuse."