Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner (DPCC) Sue Arnold is spearheading an awareness campaign in Staffordshire highlighting the risk and cruelty of female genital mutilation (FGM), on behalf of Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis.It is a criminal offence in the UK to perform, or to assist in carrying out, female genital mutilation.
It usually happens between the ages of four and ten and can have serious consequences for a woman’s health and in some instances lead to death.
Staffordshire Police is committed to tackling and preventing this harmful and unacceptable practice and has a number of specialist FGM officers commissioned by Stoke-on-Trent’s Safeguarding Board.
A professionals conference was held on 9th September 2014 at the County Showground, Stafford to bring agencies together to debate, engage and raise awareness so that strong and effective partnerships can be formed to tackle this serious issue.
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Arnold is leading a campaign, on behalf of PCC Matthew Ellis, about this often hidden form of child abuse.
Over 400 people were at the day-long conference at Stafford County Showground to bring professionals together to tackle FGM.
FGM, sometimes called female circumcision or cutting, involves the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs for cultural reasons. It usually happens between the ages of four and ten and can have serious consequences for a woman’s health and in some instances lead to death. It is practised in 28 African countries and some in the Middle East and Asia and affects migrant communities in the UK.
Speakers at the conference included medical, criminal justice and safeguarding experts along with clinician Hodo Ali who gave a first-hand account of how she survived FGM. A powerful play by the New Vic Borderlines drama company called ‘A Part Of Me’ featured in the afternoon.
Mrs Arnold said: “Female genital mutilation is a hideous crime which almost always goes unreported. All girls have the right to live free from this torture and child abuse.
“Around 60,000 girls are currently at risk of FGM across the UK which means that this is a problem that cannot be ignored in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
“Over 400 people came together today to start the conversation about how we can stand together against FGM. We must increase awareness through a joined-up training programme across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent and make sure frontline professionals are fully prepared.
“We need to engage better with communities to educate this generation to protect future generations from FGM.”
Mr Ellis led professionals at the conference in signing a pledge to take a stand against FGM. He also pledged to make money available to tackle FGM in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
The Commissioner said: “The simple fact is there is no justification for female genital mutilation and we must commit our resources, our expertise and our determination to eradicating this heinous practise from Staffordshire and beyond.
“That’s why I’m pledging today to make money available to develop a greater understanding of the scale of the problem in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, raise awareness at ground level in communities most likely to be affected and fund additional specialist expertise to develop a strategy for preventing and combatting FGM.”
Mark Warr, Assistant Director, Vulnerable Children and Corporate Parenting at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, attended the conference and was impressed with the turnout and commitment of the safeguarding partners to both develop awareness and progress a joined-up approach to tackle the issue.
He said: “As a council, we have been commended by a High Court judge for taking action to prevent the removal of a baby from the UK for the purpose of FGM, and have worked with local, national and international agencies to return a child from an African country where the procedure was planned. However, we know this is an area where there is still a lot to be done. This event will have left nobody in any doubt about the seriousness of this horrendous and enduring violation and I am fully committed to addressing the issue from a local authority perspective.”