Figures for the number of cases of female genital mutilation in England need clarifying, says Alison Macfarlane. Plus praise from Pam Wagstaff for a Guardian article about vaginal health.
Your report (Intelligence on FGM to be shared by UK and US, 7 September) contains the potentially misleading statement that “Between January and March, there were 1,030 cases of FGM in England, according to the NHS”. This is not a count of the number of girls who were subjected to FGM during the three-month period. Instead, the number refers to women of all ages with FGM who were recorded for the first time when accessing the NHS in England for care. Overall, 1,745 women with FGM attended during the quarter, 85% of them for midwifery or obstetric care, and only 20 were aged under 18. Of the 1,260 whose countries of birth were reported, the majority were born in countries where FGM is practised and only 50 were born in the UK.
There are no reliable data about the numbers of girls born in the UK who are subjected to FGM and it may be much smaller than your article implies. In particular, it would be helpful if the police published more data about their activities in relation to FGM. Health professionals and others are required to report to the police any girl or woman under the age of 18 for whom they provide care, even if she is a refugee or asylum seeker who was subjected to FGM many years ago in her country of origin. No data have yet been published about the overall numbers of girls reported and, most crucially, how many of them have actually been subjected to FGM recently.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
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