GLOUCESTERSHIRE County Council is stepping up its activity to raise awareness and secure prosecutions concerning female genital mutilation in the county.
At a full county council meeting members voted unanimously to monitor injuries suffered by victims of female genital mutilation (FGM), and to determine what steps are being taken to stop the practice from happening to children in Gloucestershire.
The council heard that the number of women and girls living with FGM in the UK is likely to be around 170,000 - almost three times the existing official figures.
There are also 65,000 girls aged 13 and under are at risk of mutilation in this country.
In spite of the UK law in 1985 banning what was then termed ‘female circumcision’ there has not been a single successful prosecution in the country.
A multi-agency approach to FGM is now being taken involving education, health and local authorities, the police and the crown prosecution service coming together to share data and raise awareness.
Councillors have welcomed the decision that doctors and nurses in the UK are now to be told to log details of injuries suffered by victims of FGM.
By September all acute hospitals will have to report this data to the Department of Health on a monthly basis.
Following the county council motion these figures will also be monitored and evaluated by the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny committee in order to see how big a problem these crimes really are in Gloucestershire.
The committee will also look at how we can prevent this practice happening to local children.
Cllr Colin Hay (Lib Dem, All Saints and Oakley) said: “It’s really good to see the whole council backing our call to highlight the issue of female genital mutilation.
"This is child abuse and we should tackle it as any other child abuse.
"The county council already does a lot of work itself and with partners but we’re pleased the issue will be given more wide spread coverage.”
Cllr Dorcus Binns (Con, Nailsworth) said: “Like every form of child abuse this council will do everything in its power not just to stamp it out but to see those who commit or facilitate it sent to prison for as long as possible.
"Whether child abuse is based on someone’s negligence, someone’s perverted desires, or someone’s backward cultural beliefs makes no difference to me and it makes no difference to this council.
"There is zero tolerance for it.”
Cllr Lesley Williams (Lab, Stonehouse) said: “It is critical that we raise awareness of the repugnant crime in our schools and the wider community.
"Female genital mutilation is a barbaric act has no place our society.
"That is why all political parties united to pass a motion to find out to what extent this crime is taking place in Gloucestershire so that we can take action.”
Cllr Richard Leppington (UKIP, Blakeney and Bream) said: “We fully support this motion as it’s apparent that this is something we need to focus on.
"We support any action that stops this from happening and brings offenders to trial in court.”