Girls forced to undergo genital mutilation in Lancashire

At least three new victims of female genital mutilation have been seen by NHS services in Lancashire so far this year.

And the National FGM Centre is warning that more girls could be flown abroad to undergo illegal procedures during the Christmas holidays.

Across England, there were more than 8,600 appointments for women and girls with FGM at NHS services in first nine months of 2019

Across England, there were more than 8,600 appointments for women and girls with FGM at NHS services in first nine months of 2019

NHS Digital figures show that victims of FGM in Lancashire were seen by NHS services on at least three occasions between January and September.

And at least three were girls or women having their injuries recorded by doctors, nurses or midwives for the first time.

FGM is where female genitals are cut, injured or changed for no medical reason. Only approximate numbers were published, to prevent identification of victims.

Across England, there were more than 8,600 appointments for women and girls with FGM at NHS services over the nine-month period. Nearly 3,000 had their injuries recorded for the first time.

The National FGM Centre said that children who could be subject to FGM abroad may start telling friends about FGM, or say they are going to have a "special procedure" or "become a woman".

Girls who fear they are at risk may also approach a teacher or another adult.

Parents may give clues, the centre added, including asking permission to take girls out of school during term-time or saying they are taking their child out of the country for a prolonged period.

It also said parents may mention they are going to spend the holidays in a country with a high prevalence of FGM.

Carrying the procedure out or assisting in it being conducted, either in the UK or abroad, can be punished with up to 14 years in prison.

FGM is most commonly carried out within communities from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and young girls are often flown abroad for ceremonies where it is performed.

Of the cases in Lancashire in which the region where the injuries were inflicted was stated and recorded, they were most commonly in western Africa.

The National FGM Centre is a partnership between the children's charity Barnardo's and the Local Government Association.

Leethen Bartholomew, head of the National FGM Centre, said: "We know from experience that many cases of FGM occur in school holidays, especially during summer and Christmas.

"It is important that teachers and other professionals are trained in spotting the signs of FGM and how to record and report it, so that girls at risk can be protected and safeguarded."