The NHS has seen a shocking rise in the number of case of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Britain – despite the practice being banned for more than 30 years.
Medical staff recorded almost 5,500 cases in 2016 alone, according to shocking new statistics.
FGM is a procedure that sees the genitals of young girls deliberately cut, injured or disfigured for “cultural, religious or social reasons”.
A report, published on Tuesday, found 1,286 new cases in the last quarter of 2016 – compared with 1,240 in the previous quarter.
The report also found more than 16,000 FGM-related attendances at NHS hospitals and GP surgeries over the year.
Doctors also discovered that while 96 per cent of women were aged 17 or younger when FGM was carried out on them, almost all – 98 per cent – were over 18 when their cases were recorded.
After the practice was banned in the UK, families began taking their daughters abroad for the procedure.
In 2003, the UK government expanded the law making it a criminal offence for British nationals or permanent residents to take their child abroad for FGM.
It is now also mandatory for healthcare professionals to alert authorities if they come across a case of the illegal practice.
Liberal Democrat shadow equalities secretary Lorely Burt has called on the Government to “redouble efforts” to tackle the issue.
She said: “The figures are astonishing. Whilst clear progress is being made at identifying FGM in a health setting, far more must be done in schools to raise awareness of the practice and help teachers flag children at risk.”
FGM can cause a host of physical and psychological problems – in some cases girls can bleed to death or die from infections caused by dirty blades.
The practice has been illegal in the UK since 1985, and is classified as child abuse.
However, no-one has been prosecuted over the practice since it was banned.
This is widely put down to the stigma attached to the “horrific” operation preventing thousands of victims from coming forward.
The ancient ritual is commonly practised in Africa and pockets of Asia and the Middle East.
It is often deemed in some cultures as a religious obligation – although it is not mentioned in the Koran or Bible.
The country with the highest rate of FGM remains Somalia where figures show 98 per cent of girls and women aged between 15 and 49 have been cut.
Guinea, Djibouti and Sierra Leone also record high rates of the potentially lethal practice.
However, overall FGM prevalence rates have fallen in the last three decades, with Liberia, Burkina Faso and Kenya showing sharp falls.
Jayda Fransen is the deputy leader of Britain First @JaydaBF