Hundreds of survivors of female genital mutilation seen by doctors in Yorkshire last year, NHS data reveals

More than 500 victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) had their injuries recorded by doctors across Yorkshire last year, NHS data shows.

The practice of cutting girls' genitals when they are young, which is traditional in some cultures, is outlawed in the UK and has been described as “extremely hidden” form of child abuse.

Since recording began in 2015, health services have identified around 2,895 people who have injuries from FGM in Yorkshire and the Humber.

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However, the real figure is likely to be much higher as many victims do not come forward due to cultural taboos surrounding the practice.

More than 500 victims of female genital mutilation had their injuries recorded by doctors across Yorkshire last year, NHS data shows

NHS Digital data shows in the year to March 2021, around 565 victims attended appointments with health professionals in the region, which includes North and North East Lincolnshire.

Of these, around 540 had their injuries recorded for the first time.

All figures are approximate to prevent possible identification of individual women in smaller areas.

Since recording began, NHS trusts and GP practices across England have identified more than 27,000 individual women and girls who have undergone FGM.

More than 500 victims of female genital mutilation had their injuries recorded by doctors across Yorkshire last year, NHS data shows

But in the year to March, FGM-related attendances at NHS appointments nationally dropped to around 10,600 from more than 12,000 the year before.

NHS Digital statisticians said it was not clear whether the change was due to a reduction in the number of women and girls seen during the pandemic or a reduction in the capacity of NHS services to report all FGM-related attendances in that time.

However, Leethen Bartholomew of the National FGM Centre – a partnership between Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association – said it was unsurprising to see a decrease in the number of cases reported since coronavirus measures took hold across the country.

He said: “This does not mean that there are fewer survivors needing this support.

“Lockdowns, school closures and fewer interactions with health, social care and other professionals, have meant many survivors are going unnoticed and are not receiving the support we know they need.

“FGM is an extremely hidden form of child abuse and there are undoubtedly women and girls who are suffering in silence.”

Mr Bartholomew added: “As society goes back to normal following a successful national vaccination campaign and the easing of restrictions, I am certain we will see those numbers rising again.

“When they do, health, social and educational professionals need to have access to the time and resources they need to ensure survivors receive the right help to overcome their physical and mental trauma.”

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