Some schoolgirls in the United Kingdom have been pressured by their peers into undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM), according to FGM survivor and campaigner Leyla Hussein, Britain’s Press Association reported.
Hussein, who founded the Dahlia Project in 2013 to help other survivors, said that she has spoken with many young women who say they feel vulnerable to becoming a victim to a crime that is still seen by many as a cultural practice or tradition, rather than a violent sexual offense, PA said.
“Some of my clients are 19-year-old girls now who were children or were born in this (country) and they will say to you they were pressured in a playground in a school in London to go and have it done,” she said.
Hussein was speaking ahead of the announcement on Friday, September 7 that US and UK law enforcement agencies have signed a proclamation in which they pledge to improve intelligence sharing around FGM in a bid to better identify victims and perpetrators.
Signatories include the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), the UK Border Force, the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security.
Between April 2017 and March 2018, almost 5,000 women and girls in the UK were newly identified as victims of FGM, according to the National Health Service. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM, and around three million girls are at risk every year.
Hussein, who had FGM in her native Somalia when she was 7, supports the new pan-Atlantic efforts to tackle the crime.
She is frustrated that there have been no convictions in the UK to date, although FGM has been illegal since 1985. Hussein ascribed that failure partly to a lack of evidence available to the police, PA said.
Ivan Balhatchet of the NPCC, and the organization’s lead on FGM, described the lack of convictions in the UK as “unacceptable” and said that the current intelligence picture was “frankly quite woeful.”
“We don’t know what’s happening even though we know this child abuse and abuse against women and girls is taking place. It needs to improve and we’ve all got a responsibility to do that.”
“No religion, culture or tradition should be allowed to mitigate or make an excuse for such appalling crimes,” Balhatchet added. “It is even more traumatic because it is generally committed or facilitated by their families who they should look to for love and protection.”
He expressed hope that the new agreement will send a strong signal that such “abuse” will not be tolerated.
Louis Rodi, of US Homeland Security Investigations, also welcomed the agreement.
“This collaboration strengthens our resolve to carry out this important work to protect women and girls and investigate crimes against them,” Rodi said.