A dedicated team of police officers were on duty at Luton Airport last night (Monday) as part of a nationwide week of action tackling female genital mutilation (FGM).
Not only is carrying out FGM in this country against the law, it is also illegal to facilitate a child being taken abroad to have the procedure carried out.
The officers were stationed at the airport throughout the afternoon and evening, speaking to families arriving back in the UK in case of any concerns about FGM, providing the opportunity for any disclosures to be made, and handing out information booklets about the crime.
Detective Sergeant Elaine Cook, who led the operation, said: “Put simply, FGM is child abuse. It is a tortuous crime that inflicts needless pain and abuse on young women, physically and mentally scarring them for life.
“It’s easy to assume that FGM is the type of crime that only happens abroad, but more than 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of FGM in the UK every year.
“The operation was a chance for us to raise awareness of FGM as well as speaking to families returning from countries where FGM is more commonly practised in case they had any concerns or knowledge of the procedure taking place while they were away.”
With children returning to school this week, police are also asking both teachers and the public to be aware of the signs of FGM, as it is possible that girls were taken away over the summer holidays to have the procedure carried out.
Signs that FGM has taken place include; behavioural changes, difficulty in walking/ sitting, health problems including bladder and menstrual issues, complaints about pain, and talk of having being taken away for a special ceremony or procedure.
Det Sgt Cook added: “Because of its nature, FGM can be a hidden crime, one that is quite hard to detect. That’s why we’re urging anyone who has concerns that a girl may have been forced to undergo this horrific abuse during the summer holidays to come forward, so that we can properly investigate it and provide help to the victim while bringing those responsible to justice.”
To report a concern about FGM, contact police on 101.
The NSPCC have a free 24/7 anonymous helpline: 0800 028 3550. You can also email them on email@example.com