Warning: This article is about Female Genital Mutilation and may be distressing for some readers.
MERSEYSIDE'S Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy has added her voice to a campaign aimed at raising awareness of a form of child abuse affecting thousands of young girls in the UK.
Student Fahma Mohamed has launched her initiative to get schools talking about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) before the summer holidays, at which time it is estimated up to 24,000 young girls in the UK could be at risk.
The 17-year-old, of Bristol, has started a Change.org petition urging Michael Gove to contact all schools in the UK, empowering head teachers to take whatever action necessary to protect girls from FGM.
Now Commissioner Kennedy has given her backing to Fahma’s campaign.
Ms Kennedy said: “Female genital mutilation is a barbaric practice that has no place in today’s society. There are no cultural, religious or medical reasons that can ever justify a practice that causes so much pain and suffering.
“While FGM is a complex, sensitive and distressing subject, there are no excuses for failing to take action against it.
“FGM is not only illegal, it is life-threatening and it can leave its young victims in real agony with long-term physical and psychological problem.
“Raising awareness of the illegality of FGM across our communities and in our schools is hugely important. We need everyone to understand FGM is child abuse and it will not be tolerated.
“By signing this petition, we are saying we all have a responsibility to put a stop to FGM.”
Fahma’s petition has been one of the fastest growing campaigns ever hosted on the Change.org site, with more than 228,000 people already backing it.
The petitions urges the secretary of state for education to write to all head teachers in the country asking them to inform teachers and parents about FGM before the next summer holidays, in a bid to protect girls from being mutilated during the "cutting season".
The Commissioner has previously urged people to make a stand against the practice during the UN International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM on February 6.
Information from the World Health Organisation estimates 120-140m women each year have been subjected to the procedure. A further three million girls are thought to be at risk each year worldwide.
Although FGM was criminalised 28 years ago, there have yet to be any prosecutions in the UK.
It is hoped that this will soon change with the first prosecution in Britain for this offence expected to come to court within weeks.
You can add your name to the petiton here