Girls are being taken to female genital mutilation (FGM) “parties” in cities across England, a charity has warned.
The Black Health Initiative in Leeds says midwives from Africa are being flown into the country to carry out the illegal practice.
West Yorkshire Police said they were aware girls were being subjected to FGM locally.
Latest NHS figures show more than 8,000 women across England have recently been identified as being victims of FGM.
FGM is an illegal practice in the UK and carries a sentence of up to 14 years in jail. It is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia, for non medical reasons.
Heather Nelson, Chief Executive of the Black Health Initiative, said: “We know of parties happening here in England, and in West Yorkshire we recently had to break one up, and we’ve stopped another from taking place.
BBC NEWSHeather Nelson says her organisation have been made aware of numerous FGM parties in Yorkshire
“What we’re finding now is that where once girls were taken abroad to be cut, specialist midwives are now flown over and several girls are cut at the same time, which then leads to a celebration.”
The charity said it had a referral from a school in Leeds last week regarding an eight-year-old girl who they thought was playing truant.
“In fact she was disappearing from class because it took her an hour to go to the toilet, such was the pain she was experiencing,” Ms Nelson said.
“People will say why don’t you call the police if you hear about one of these parties? But when you call the police you find that not every officer has an awareness of what FGM is.”
West Yorkshire Police said they were aware that women and girls in Yorkshire had been subjected to the act of FGM.
Ass Ch Con Russ Foster said: “We are doing everything we can to tackle this issue and it is vital that all our partners continue to work together to make a difference.”
The force said it had no “specific intelligence” about FGM “parties” taking place.
Areas in England with the highest number of recorded FGM victims include Birmingham, Bristol, London and Manchester.
Fatima is one of thousands of victims of FGM living in England
‘I don’t feel like a woman’
Fatima, from Sheffield, was subjected to FGM when she was 10 years old while living in Africa.
“One day my auntie came to our house to take me to the place where they were going to cut me, and when we got there five women pinned me down.
“Afterwards I got an infection and that means now I can’t have children.
“I don’t feel like a woman because I can’t feel anything. Everyday I think about it and it makes me very angry.”
A recent report by the Home Affairs Select Committee said it was a “national scandal” that no one in the UK had ever been successfully prosecuted for a FGM offence.
There are no definitive figures that detail exactly how many women in England have actually been a victim of FGM.
A study by the City University of London published in 2015 estimated there were 137,000 women who have been subjected to the practice in England and Wales.
Meanwhile, NHS Digital began collating data in April 2015 about the number of women and girls coming into contact with the NHS who have been a victim of FGM at some point in their lives.
These figures show that 8,718 women have been identified as FGM victims, with 68 females saying the procedure had been carried out in the UK.
Culled from BBC NEWS