British girls could be flown abroad to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) during the school holidays, experts have warned.
The National FGM Centre urged teachers to be alert to spot girls who are at risk.
The centre, which is jointly run by the children’s charity Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association, said that youngsters could be at risk over the festive period.
The practice is illegal in the UK.
Professionals including teachers, social workers and healthcare staff should be aware of warning signs and know how to help, the centre said.
Signs that could indicate a child may be at risk include: a girl talking to her friends about FGM; saying that she is going to have a “special procedure”, or attend an occasion to “become a woman” or discussing a long holiday in a country where the practice is prevalent.
Parents may also talk about such holidays, say they are taking their child out of the country for a prolonged period of time or ask permission to take their daughter out of school during term time.
Any teacher who suspects a girl is at risk should follow the normal safeguarding procedures, the centre added.
Official NHS Digital figures show that in England alone there were 1,060 newly recorded cases of female genital mutilation between July and September 2017.
The centre said that of these, 83% happened before the girl had reached her 10th birthday and 20% took place before she had turned one.
“FGM is child abuse and no girl should ever have to live with the harmful physical and emotional consequences of this terrible practice,” said Michelle Lee-Izu, director of the National FGM Centre.
“We believe the best way of preventing the practice is by working with girls and their families, raising awareness in schools and communities and training professionals like teachers and social workers to spot girls at risk of FGM and know how to report it.
“We hope our reminder of the signs will help not just teachers but all agencies to prevent FGM from happening by identifying girls at risk and helping to prosecute those who fail to protect girls from this type of abuse.”
Source : BirminghamMail