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CUT - Some Wounds Never Heal

The school summer holidays are approaching, bringing an increased risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) to over 6000 young girls in London. The Metropolitan Police Service, in partnership with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Kids Taskforce, is today, Monday 4 July, launching a new teaching resource to help tackle this form of child abuse.

The pack will be launched in South London and will see the first showing of 'Cut - Some Wounds Never Heal' a film by the Kids Taskforce and pupils at Lilian Baylis Technology School, Kennington. The hard-hitting film features model, author and human rights activist Waris Dirie, ITV's Dr Hilary Jones and other experts in dealing with FGM.

The film, which is aimed at 11-17 year olds, was created by young people for young people and leads with a strong message that this practice is abusive to a woman's body and can have profound physical and mental consequences.

FGM is illegal in the UK and under the FGM Act 2003 it is also illegal for girls to be taken from the UK to undergo the procedure anywhere in the world. Those who are involved or facilitate this process may be guilty of an offence which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

Today's launch coincides with the forthcoming summer break as experience has shown that the girls most at risk of FGM are taken back to their countries of origin at the start of the school summer holidays, allowing them extended time to recover from their wounds before returning to school in September.

In London alone there are estimated to be 6,500 girls at risk annually of FGM. The Metropolitan Police Service Child Abuse Investigation Command through Project Azure works to tackle this issue and to prevent this happening to girls in London. This is done in partnership with various statutory agencies, charities and organizations, and involves education and enforcement activities. The resource pack launched today is the latest action to come from that partnership approach.

The resource is the first of its kind and available freely for all secondary schools in the UK. It will facilitate open discussion on this sensitive subject and offer advice and information to those at risk and their peers.

In addition to the new resource, specialist child protection officers will be working closely with their partners this summer to raise awareness of the issues, to help identify girls who may be at risk and prevent them from being subjected to the procedure. Additionally, the MPS is actively investigating a number of ongoing cases.

Speakers at today's event will include Hannah Buckley, head of sexual violence policy at the Home Office, Sharon Doughty, president founder of Kids Taskforce, and Commander Simon Foy, head of homicide and serious crime investigations for the Metropolitan Police Service.

Speaking ahead of today's event Commander Foy said: "Female genital mutilation is a crime. It is painful and traumatic and harmful to girls and women in many ways.

"Those who are involved in any way - be it aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring or carrying out FGM inside or outside the UK - are committing a criminal offence, as well as putting lives at risk.

"The Metropolitan Police Service is here for all Londoners and we are working with our partners to prevent this form of child abuse through education and enforcement, while supporting victims and survivors, and pursuing those who are involved in carrying this practice out.

"I would like to thank the Kids Taskforce, the FCO and the Lilian Baylis pupils involved in producing this film to raise awareness of FGM and hope that this resource will be used in secondary schools to assist in broaching this sensitive subject.

"We would urge anyone who believes a girl is vulnerable to come forward and alert the police or other agencies so that they can be protected."

Founding President of Kids Taskforce Sharon Doughty, added: "This is a practice that needs bringing out into the open so that it can be addressed, by working with communities here to change minds. I felt the best way to achieve that was to have the people most affected - young girls - make their own film on the issue."

Kit Malthouse, deputy mayor of policing said: "The ritual mutilation of young girls is a revolting and barbaric act which is sadly far too prevalent in modern London. The Mayor has commissioned a report to try and gauge the true scale of this atrocity, but even without this, we know many girls suffer horribly because of this cultural evil. The Mayor has put tackling this practice firmly on the agenda with the police and their partners. This film is a welcome sign of that renewed effort. Greater knowledge should help young girls protect themselves and the generations to follow, and help our law enforcement agencies bring their abusers to justice."

Further information can be found at www.met.police.uk/fgm

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