An article from Bristol 24/7 caught my eye today. The headline is “More than 500 Victims of FGM Identified in Bristol in Last Year Alone”. The story describes how health bosses across Bristol have vowed to end FGM – yeah, right – as hundreds of new cases have been reported.
NHS Digital has found 535 victims of FGM in Bristol, which means 535 young women have had their genitals cut and mutilated for no medical purposes. This procedure is not performed legally in this country, and therefore must have been performed in underground ‘surgeries’, where people share a similar cultural/religious background get together to mutilate children.
This is a serious problem. It’s a dreadful crime with tens of thousands of victims, if not more, who have received no justice. And while it’s terrible to think this crime is happening on such a huge scale in Bristol, it’s not an isolated case. New data has shown the crime happening all over the UK. NHS Digital says that medical staff in England have seen around 6,400 women and girls suffering from FGM injuries between April 2017 and March 2018.
Bear in mind, by the way, that many cases still aren’t being recorded. Bristol 24/7 reported that 200 of the 535 instances recorded by the NHS were having their injuries recorded for the first time. There are still many too afraid to seek help for their injuries.
The same NHS Digital report has said that Slough has seen a total of 55 FGM victims seeking support from the doctors. At least one new victim in Somerset has been identified. At least two new victims have been identified in Poole and Dorset county areas. At least three new victims of FGM have been identified in Plymouth. And further victims have been identified in Kent.
This is all over the country, and it’s happening in almost every town and city. And now, England’s first ever walk-in clinic for people suffering from female genital mutilation has just opened in – you guessed it – Tower Hamlets. Surgeries have also opened in Waltham Forest and Redbridge. This follows on from the opening of the FGM clinic in Cardiff, and I remember when this first happened. There was much fanfare, as if we’re meant to be pleased these clinics are open.
I’m happy people are receiving support, but we should be deeply troubled that these things need to have opened in the first place. Every year we hear about more cases, and every year it becomes more evident that we lack the political will to solve it.
Well, I say "we," I mean "they." The politicians lack the political will to solve it, because they know solving it means admitting the problem exists. And admitting the problem exists means admitting there is a source of the problem.
And admitting the source of the problem is a hate crime.