A new case of female genital mutilation (FGM) was reported every 109 minutes in England between April and September last year, yet there has not been a single prosecution, according to government figures.
The charity Plan UK, which analyzed the most recent data from the UK government's Health & Social Care Information Centre — which records cases of FGM newly-discovered by health professionals — said until now FGM had been a "hidden danger" of which the full scale was only just beginning to become apparent.
The only FGM prosecution ever brought in the UK, of a doctor accused of carrying out the practice in a London hospital, ended in acquittal in February last year.
The United Nations also revealed on Friday that the scale of the practice around the world was far higher than previously estimated, with more than 200 million girls and women globally having suffered genital mutilation.
Despite growing momentum to end FGM, experts warned that booming populations in some high prevalence countries were undermining efforts to tackle the practice widely condemned as a serious human rights abuse.
If current trends continue the number of girls and women subjected to FGM will increase significantly over the next 15 years," the UN children's agency UNICEF said, on the eve of International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM. The UNICEF data covers 30 countries, but half of girls and women who have been cut live in just three countries — Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia.
The new global figure includes nearly 70 million more girls and women than UNICEF estimated in 2014. But this is largely due to the inclusion of data from Indonesia which was left out in 2014 because there were no reliable national figures at the time.
"Female genital mutilation differs across regions and cultures, with some forms involving life-threatening health risks," said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta.
"In every case FGM violates the rights of girls and women. We must all accelerate efforts — governments, health professionals, community leaders, parents and families — to eliminate the practice."
The ancient ritual — practised across a swath of African countries and pockets of Asia and the Middle East — usually involves the partial or total removal of a girl's external genitalia.
In its most extreme form the vaginal opening is also sewn up. In many countries girls are commonly cut before their fifth birthday
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