As people around the world draw together on Saturday (6 February) in a global zero tolerance campaign to stop female genital mutilation (FGM), Derbyshire's Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa has urged people across the county to report any suspicions to the police.
"FGM is a heinous crime that puts the lives and health of young girls and women at great risk. It is illegal, it is brutal and it is a violation of human rights," he said.
Saturday's International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM is jointly led by the United Nations Population Fund and UNICEF. They support community-led, multi-sectional approaches to the abandonment of FGM - also known as genital cutting - with the aim of eliminating the practice within a generation.
FGM has been a criminal offence in England and Wales since 1985, and carries a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment. It has also been an offence since 2003 for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to carry out FGM abroad, or to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad, even in countries where the practice is legal.
The Zero Tolerance Day coincides with the end of the UK's first Sexual Violence Awareness Week (1-7 February) which aims to ensure that everyone who has been subjected to sexual abuse and sexual violence can access the most appropriate support and advice.
"Awareness, prevention and protection have to be our watchwords," the Deputy PCC maintained. "Our young people need us to remain aware and report any concerning signs to the police or to other senior professionals in order to prevent sexual abuse of all kinds, including FGM."
He added: "No-one should stand by and stay silent; they should tell the appropriate people if they know or think someone may be at risk. We all have a duty to protect our vulnerable young people who rely on us to keep them safe."
Between 100 and 140 million girls and women alive today are believed to have undergone some form of FGM. The practice is mostly carried out on girls between infancy and the age of 15.
Mr Abdulkadir Omar, director of Derby-based charity Hamaari, commented: "We have been at the forefront of efforts to raise awareness among our East African communities here, whose people could be affected by FGM, that this is a crime in the UK and many parts of the world. Thanks to support arranged for us by Mr Dhindsa, we have not been alone in this work. Our message is now getting through with the help of ten trained volunteers who go out to speak to the communities."
The support group's aim is to help East African communities to integrate and overcome barriers in Derby by acting as a link between them and the city's authorities and communities.
Media Enquiries: Sallie Blair - 01283 821012 / 07702 541401
Posted on Monday 8th February 2016