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Zero Tolerance Day to FGM supported by Vera Baird and Northumbria Police

5th February 2016

Vera Baird and Northumbria Police are taking a stance against FGM by supporting the United Nations’ International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.

The yearly event, held on 6 February, raises awareness of the harmful practice affecting millions of women and girls worldwide.

FGM is a health issue for many Women and here in the UK it has been estimated that 100-140 million women and girls alive today have undergone some form of female genital mutilation.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird,  has campaigned to make FGM a priority here in the north east. It forms a key part of the regional ‘Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy’, which she launched  in 2013 with fellow north east Police and Crime Commissioners Barry Coppinger, from Cleveland, and Durham’s Ron Hogg.

Vera Baird, said: “Women and girls all over the world are victims of female genital mutilation, and the North East is no exception. FGM is internationally recognised as a violation of human rights, yet it is often carried out under the guise of tradition, religion, or social convention.

“It’s a practice that can have serious health consequences both physically and psychologically, so I strongly urge anyone suffering in silence to seek help, likewise, anyone who suspects this practice is happening to someone they know must contact the police so they can put an immediate stop to it.

“My role as Police and Crime Commissioner, together with the role of the police, is essential in ensuring victims receive the correct support and those people who commit this crime are dealt with appropriately.

“I will continue to prioritise raising awareness of the illegality of FGM through our Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy and will keep placing pressure on ending this horrific form of violence practiced on women and girls.”

Today (Friday 5th February), Northumbria Police will be attending at a ‘Zero Tolerance’ multi-agency seminar, hosted by the Angelou Centre and Ben Hoare Bell Solictors. The event aims to bring together organisations across Tyneside in an effort to eliminate FGM. Detective Inspector Lesley Wheatley, from Northumbria Police is speaking at the event about how officers are trained to respond to reports of FGM.

Lesley Wheatley said: “I want to make people aware that all reports of FGM are treated as an absolute priority by Northumbria Police. We are working hard with local communities to remove barriers and help build trust and confidence that the matter will be handled appropriately with utmost sensitivity.

“FGM is a form of abuse which must not be ignored –  it’s a serious criminal offence in the UK which carries a maximum penalty of 14-years in prison. I’d urge anyone who suspects this practice is happening in their communities to contact us. Those who also suspect that a child is being taken overseas for the purpose of FGM should also call us.”

Umme Imam, from Newcastle’s Angelou Centre said: “FGM is a culturally specific form of Violence Against Women and Girls and child abuse, it is a violation of women’s and girls’ human rights. The Angelou Centre has supported FGM survivors as part of our services for survivors of VAWG within BME communities.

“Our work on FGM followed the commitment we made at the Girl Summit in July 2014 to contribute to ending  FGM by raising awareness within communities as well as supporting and protecting victims and survivors. Through our Mama & Binti Project, funded by the Rosa Fund, our Women’s Champions have successfully broken the silence and initiated conversation on FGM within diverse BME communities across the north east.”

A helpline, specialising in responses to female genital mutilation (FGM) has been set up by the NSPCC, supported by the Metropolitan Police, and in association with a number of voluntary and professional groups, including FGM charities.The helpline can be contacted on: 0800 028 3550

Police can be called on 101, or if there is an ongoing crime dial 999.