Almost one woman in every 1000 in the North East has undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), according to a new research.
While people born in countries where FGM is practiced tend to be concentrated in urban areas, no local authority area is likely to be free from the practice entirely, the report said.
In the North East, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird has campaigned to make FGM a priority in region by making it part of the joint Violence Against Women and Girls strategy project, which was launched with fellow North East Police and Crime Commissioners Barry Coppinger, from Cleveland, and Durham’s Ron Hogg in 2013.
Last week Ms Baird welcomed new protection laws, which were introduced by The Ministry of Justice to prevent vulnerable girls being taken abroad to undergo FGM.
The new laws mean anyone who suspects a girl is being taken abroad for FGM can apply for a protection order. If an order is made and subsequently breached, that person will be found guilty of an offence and could face a prison sentence of up to five years.
Commissioner Baird, said: “FGM is a severe form of violence against women and girls and one which must not be ignored. The new laws will help officers stop the abuse in its tracks and ultimately protect those who are most vulnerable.
“While the figures released today are low in the North East compared to other parts of the country such as London and Manchester, one woman in every thousand in our region, is still one woman too many.
“FGM can have serious health consequences both physically and psychologically so I strongly urge anyone who suspects this practice is happening to someone they know to contact the police so they can put an immediate stop to it.
“I will continue to prioritise raising awareness of the illegality of FGM within our community and keep placing pressure on ending this horrific form of violence practiced on women and girls, which has no place in any society.”
Mary Wandia, FGM Programme Manager, Equality Now, said: “We hope that policy makers at all levels – including in local authorities – urgently respond to these new estimates.
“The UK as a whole should also continue to lead the way on providing a model to tackle this extreme form of violence against girls and women.
“This means stepping up work to prevent it, protecting girls at risk, providing support to survivors, pursuing prosecutions when necessary and continuing to develop relevant partnerships, to ensure that all work to end this human rights violation is ‘joined up’ and effective at every level. A crucial part of this is building on the community prevention work already being undertaken in the UK – this work is vital to achieving long term change.”