MERSEYSIDE Police is reiterating its support to help victims of female genital mutilation on the day that people around the globe campaign to stop it.

International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) - held on February 6 each year - seeks to raise awareness about the practice and change attitudes towards it.

Around 140 million women and children around the world have had the procedure performed on them and it is deep-rooted in some cultures within some African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries, according to the United Nations.

The NSPCC says it has referred several thousand victims in this country to specialist health clinics for medical help in the past few years alone.

However, the true number of women and girls who suffer the procedure against their will is believed to be much higher as many are too frightened to seek help or report it.

Merseyside Police regards FGM as a form of abuse against women and children and is working with charities, health authorities and community leaders to: change cultural attitudes towards the practice, spot signs of it happening, and encourage victims or witnesses to it to seek help so that it can be stopped and the perpetrators caught.

Detective Superintendent Tim Keelan, from Merseyside Police’s protecting vulnerable people unit, said: “We are proud to be among many police forces throughout the UK that are supporting International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

"This practice is largely perpetuated against young women in secret and often without anaesthetic leaving the poor victim in absolute agony. In short, it is nothing short of child abuse.

“Although it is a global problem, it is one that also exists here in Merseyside, yet the true scale is still unknown.

"The impact on the young person though is clear. As well as the physical agony of the procedure itself, the child is likely to suffer emotionally and psychologically as she grows up and also during adulthood. By then they may feel like they cannot speak out and break the code of silence forced upon them by their family or peers, and so continue to suffer.

“It is important that we all start talking about FGM as an issue so that it is no longer a taboo subject amongst communities themselves or the agencies and charities that are there to help them.

"Frontline police officers, crown prosecutors and health professionals are now getting the training they need to recognise the signs of FGM, the impact it has on victims and how to help them.

“We hope that today helps bring about a greater understanding and public awareness of the dangers and consequences of this totally unnecessary practice." 

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