Female genital mutilation is ‘growing problem’ in Redbridge, says charity

A Redbridge women’s charity is calling for action to stop female genital mutilation (FGM) amid concerns over a “growing problem” in Redbridge.

Bushra Tahir, chairman of Awaaz, said she was aware of women and girls in the borough undergoing the painful and illegal procedures.

She added: “It’s a growing problem in Redbridge are we’re all worried about it.

“It’s a cultural problem, particularly in Somali and Arab Kashmiri communities.

“There is a lot of pressure on the parents from the community and from close family members.”

FGM is a cultural practice ongoing in parts of Africa and Asia and in communities living in other countries.

It is classed as any procedure to intentionally injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons and includes the removal of genitalia, cutting, burning or sewing the area up to be cut open years later.

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Operations are usually carried out on girls between birth and the age of 15 and can cause bleeding, problems urinating, childbirth complications and newborn deaths.

Charity Forward estimates that 66,000 women and girls have undergone FGM in England and Wales, while 24,000 girls under the age of 11 are at risk.

Mrs Tahir said no statistics are available for Redbridge because it is almost impossible to get information on the underreported crime.

Awaaz is trying to raise awareness of the issue by holding events with parents and discussing action with other groups.

Mrs Tahir said the charity works with the police if victims or people under threat of FGM come forward but girls are often reluctant to prosecute family members.

She added: “The situation is getting better because it’s mostly grandparents, not parents, pushing for FGM.

“The new generation understands better.”

Since 2004, it has been illegal to practice FGM in the UK, take girls abroad for procedures whether it is lawful in that country or not and or aid procedures abroad in any way.

The maximum penalty is 14 years in prison but charity Equality now said there has never been a prosecution in the UK.

If you feel at risk or suspect someone you know is at risk of FGM abroad, call the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 020 7008 1500.

The police or Redbridge children’s services should be contacted immediately over local cases.