Political correctness is preventing British officials from taking tough action against female genital mutilation in this country, a report by MPs today says.
They warn that 20,000 girls in the UK are at risk of being subjected to the highly painful procedure, and 66,000 women are living with its after-effects, and yet not a single prosecution has been brought since it was outlawed.
The failure to act seriously undermines Britain's claim to be a world leader in tackling violence against women in developing nations, the Commons international development select committee said.
Up to 140m women and girls worldwide are estimated to have undergone female circumcision. It is practised in more than 40 African countries - it is particularly widespread in Somalia - as well as in parts of Asia the Middle East.
Female genital mutilation has been illegal in the UK since 1985 and punishable by up to 14 years' imprisonment.
But there has not been a single prosecution, even after the law was tightened in 2003 to criminalise the procedure taking place on British citizens overseas.
The committee said: “The UK's international leadership is weakened by its failure to address violence against women and girls within its own borders, particularly female genital mutilation from which 20,000 girls within the UK are at risk.
”Robust action should be taken to counter political correctness and address culturally sensitive practices such as female genital mutilation within the UK.“
William Hague, the Foreign Secretary has made ending sexual violence a key aim of Britain's presidency of the G8 and has visited rape victims in war zones with actress and UN ambassador Angelina Jolie.
The Department for International Development has devoted £35million to eradicating the ”cutting“ of girls worldwide within a generation.
But the MPs said: ”The UK's credibility in calling to end the practice overseas is undermined by the failure to tackle the problem at home.“