A shocking study released earlier this week revealed that nearly one-in-20 women in the borough are thought to have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the highest percentage in England and Wales.
It also estimated that over ten per cent of women in the borough were born to a mother who has undergone the horrific procedure, which involves the removal of the clitoris and labia, often using a razor without the use of anaesthetic.
In extreme circumstance, the skin of the vagina is also stitched together to preserve the victim’s virginity until marriage.
The study, carried out by charity Equality Now and the City of London University, also revealed that no authority in England and Wales is thought to be free from FGM victims – although no area comes close to Southwark’s extraordinarily high percentage.
The figures were estimated by analysing the demographic break-down of Southwark, which includes a high percentage of women from countries where FGM is common. It is not based on known cases.
South London boroughs Lambeth and Greenwich are also ranked highly on the list, with 3.22 per cent and 2.97 per cent of women respectively affected in each area – still dwarfed by Southwark’s total of 4.74 per cent.
Cllr Victoria Mills, Southwark Cabinet Member for Children and Schools, said: “Regrettably, FGM does affect some of our communities in Southwark, and it’s something that all the relevant agencies have been working hard to tackle. The police lead on prosecuting those responsible while the NHS leads our campaign to combat FGM as midwives and other healthcare professionals are best-placed to identify victims.
“The council’s education and social services teams support these agencies. Under the umbrella of the Southwark Safeguarding Children Board, we are all working together to ensure that victims and potential victims of FGM are identified and supported. Part of this work is to engage with communities, empowering women, men and young people to report concerns about FGM, particularly among faith groups.”
There is a FGM clinic at Guy’s and St Thomas’, providing counselling, support, advice and surgical interventions. You can contact the clinic by calling 0207 188 6872. Alternatively you can call the NSPCC’s FGM helpline on 08000 283550.