A West Midlands UKIP MEP is calling for more effective action to outlaw the illegal and barbaric practice of female genital mutilation after more than 5,000 new cases affecting women and girls living in the UK were recorded over 12 months.
James Carver condemned the practice which has been suffered by around 170,000 women and girls living in the UK, according to government estimates, with 16 in every 1,000 women in Birmingham being cut.
Although more prevalent in the higher immigrant areas of Birmingham and the Black Country, cases have been reported by hospitals in Worcester, Kidderminster, Redditch and Coventry.
Since 2015 is has been mandatory for healthcare professionals and teachers to report known cases of FGM and latest figures reveal 5,484 newly recorded cases nationally in 2016, including 280 between last October and December in the Midlands and East of England region, the highest number outside London.
The practice is usually carried out on girls between infancy and 15 years, with the majority of cases only being recorded years later as young women when they are seen in NHS maternity and gynaecology settings.
The NHS Digital statistics show that of the 1,268 new cases recorded nationally in the final quarter of last year, five per cent of victims had been born in the UK and four per cent had their FGM carried out inside the UK.
Immediate health complications of FGM include shock, haemorrhage, infections and psychological consequences while the long-term health risks consist of chronic pain, infections, infertility, birth complications and danger to the new born.
There are four types of FGM including the removal of the clitoris, narrowing of the vaginal orifice and vaginal piercings all of which are deemed human rights violations by the World Health Organisation.
The practice, which is performed for non-medical and no-religious reasons, is deeply rooted in the culture of many sub-Saharan African countries. In Somalia, 98 per cent of women are affected, and in neighbouring Somaliland it is prevalent in just a fraction less than 100 per cent of females aged above 15 years.
Mr Carver said the increase in reports in the West Midlands was partly due to a growing awareness of FGM amongst frontline workers such as nurses, teachers and social workers, but also because more people have settled in the region from practicing countries over recent years.
He said: “It is illegal in the UK to carry out FGM and to take girls abroad for the purpose of FGM, punishable by up to 14 years in prison, yet here in the West Midlands there have been no convictions.
“Since FGM Protection Orders came into force in July 2015 to safeguard those at risk of FGM, to prevent girls being taken abroad to be cut and to prohibit ‘cutters’ being brought into this country, just 94 orders were made nationally up to the end of 2016.
“This is a drop in the ocean when you consider that more than 60,000 girls in the UK are estimated as being at risk, 9,000 of those living in the West Midland. More effective action is needed.”
Mr Carver, UKIP’s Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs spokesman, said he was heartened by campaigns in places like Somalia to outlaw the practice and is hopeful that it will be made illegal after presidential elections in Somaliland in October.
“We must rid the planet of this inhumane practice, and we must also be firmer in our own back yard, through education and prosecution, to protect women and girls from this most degrading and harmful practice, which serves only to exert control over them and their sexuality.
“It has no place in a civilised and equal world,” he added.
UKIP's Women's and Equalities spokesperson East Midland MEP Margot Parker endorsed Mr Carver’s stance saying: "This barbaric practice has no place in the modern world let alone 21st century Britain.
“It is not about culture, it is not about religion - it is about the systematic de-sexualisation and oppression of women, an attack on their very identity. It is abhorrent and every effort much be made to stamp it out, not just in the UK but all over the world."