A bloody nightmare - and the girls have no way out.
The NHS is offering to reverse female circumcision amid concerns that there are 500 victims a year with no prosecutions
The NHS is to advertise free operations to reverse female circumcisions, with experts warning that each year more than 500 British girls have their genitals mutilated.
Despite having been outlawed in 1985, female circumcision is still practised in British African communities, in some cases on girls as young as 5. Police have been unable to bring a single prosecution even though they suspect that community elders are being flown from the Horn of Africa to carry out the procedures.
The advertisement will appear from next month on a Somali satellite TV station much viewed in Britain. It features Juliet Albert, a midwife who does the reverse operations, and promises, in English and Somali, confidentiality for victims of female genital mutilation.
The advertisement was expected to help to undermine demand for girls to be circumcised, and to popularise the reversal procedure, Ms Albert said. Thousands of such operations have been carried out at specialist clinics and hospitals around Britain and demand is growing slowly.
Female circumcision, which is done for various reasons, such as religious and cultural traditions, can cause severe health complications including infections and psychological problems. The procedure, predominantly carried out on girls aged between 5 and 12, can range from the removal of the clitoris to the removal of all the exterior parts of the vagina, which is then sewn up.
A study by the Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development (Forward), estimated that 66,000 women living in England and Wales had been circumcised, most before leaving their country of origin. The government-funded research also found that more than 7,000 girls were at a high risk of being subjected to genital mutilation in Britain.
Sarah McCulloch, of the Agency for Culture Change Management UK, said that every year more than 500 British girls were having circumcisions. “A lot of them are done in the UK, but some still travel overseas,” she said.
She said that a code of silence in Britain’s African communities had allowed circumcisions to continue and prevented arrests. The unqualified female elders, known as “house doctors” because they act in secret in a family home, are flown into the country.
“What the communities do is they gather together and collect money to pay for the ticket for a ‘doctor’ to come from Somalia, Sudan, or whatever,” she told The Times. “And when she arrives here, she goes to a house and has the girls brought to her.”
Ms McCulloch said that girls were brainwashed into believing circumcision to be a cultural, and, in some cases, religious obligation that should be kept secret. “It is something they simply do not discuss — if they do they’d be seen as betraying their family and their community and culture,” she said. “I know many girls who want to accuse their parents but can’t. They don’t want to take their parents to court.”