London has the highest rate of Female Genital Mutilation in England


London has the highest rate of female genital mutilation (FGM) in England and Wales according to a new study by City University London and Equality Now. Based on 2011 census and birth registry data, the estimates reveal 137,000 women and girls with FGM aged 15-49 and 50 and over, permanently resided in England and Wales in 2011. That is to say 4.8 per 1,000, whilst in London specifically prevalence stood at 21.0 per 1,000. The Brent and Southwark boroughs had the highest number of women and girls affected by FGM in the capital with numbers reaching 47.4 per 1,000 and 38.9 per 1000 respectively.

The report cites migration from the Horn of Africa and West and East Africa, as the key driver of the growth in FGM prevalence this past decade. For instance 53,000 out of 103,000 women with FGM, aged 15-49 and permanently residing in England and Wales, were born in the Horn of Africa in 2011. Girls born in communities who practice FGM in the UK are also often flown out of the country during school holidays to undergo the procedure in high risk destinations.

It should be stressed that true prevalence of Black African Women with FGM in the UK remains unknown as members of this population tend to be under enumerated in the census. Nonetheless, AHPN worryingly notes the increasing numbers of Black African Women with FGM in the country. FGM can lead to serious consequences including gynaecological complications,psychological problems and even death.

We thus welcome the UK Government’s renewed efforts to tackle FGM as shown in the 2015 Government declaration on female genital mutilation. However we urge for the outlined measures to be implemented and enforced in a sensitive manner to avoid the stigmatisation and discrimination of Black African women and Black African communities by police forces and social services. We also call for strong partnerships between Governments, affected communities, service providers and relevant stakeholders at all levels, to inform plan and deliver service provision and prevention that empowers women and changes behavior and attitudes in the community to end FGM.