Police chiefs in South Yorkshire have vowed to take a ‘zero tolerance’ stance on female genital mutilation.
The procedure, thought to take place predominantly outside the UK, is believed to be ‘vastly under-reported’ and police chiefs are urging members of the public to be on the look out for the warning signs.
Detective Inspector Karen Hockley, of South Yorkshire Police, said: “This is an incredibly taboo issue that we simply don’t talk about and we want to change that attitude in South Yorkshire.
“Let’s be very clear – female genital mutilation is a form of child abuse and as such, it will not be tolerated.
“While there isn’t a great deal of evidence to suggest that the crime is taking place in our region, we do believe that young girls are being taken abroad to have this shocking procedure.
“As this is such an under-reported issue, however, we can’t be sure that there aren’t those committing this crime in South Yorkshire.
“We have support resources available to young girls and women who have sadly already fallen victim to this horrific practise, but we need your help to identify young girls at risk so we can safeguard them from further harm.”
Under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, it is illegal for the procedure to be performed.
It is also an offence for a UK national or permanent UK resident to carry out the procedure, or help and enable someone else to carry it out FGM.
Assistant Chief Constable Ingrid Lee, from South Yorkshire Police, said: “Victims share a number of warning signs that we might associate with victims of sexual abuse including child sexual exploitation – they might miss school or be taken on an extended holiday out of the country, they may be withdrawn or their behaviour may change, they may show signs of being in pain or restrict their movement.
“This is a very difficult issue for many people to think about, let alone talk about, but as a community we must act to protect our young women and girls from this violation of their human rights.”
Anyone wishing to report any concerns should call 101.