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I asked a 13-year-old girl whether she had been cut. She replied, “That's horrible isn't it”, a rhetorical question to which I nodded assent. She felt that it was an appropriate question to ask, given the clinical context. The next morning I read, “Cameron in crackdown on summer surge of FGM cases” (from The Observer, Sunday 14 June 2015). New laws aimed at preventing young girls being taken abroad to undergo what the prime minister described as the “cruel and barbaric practice” of female genital mutilation (FGM) were to be “fast-tracked within weeks, amid fears that the number of cases could soar during the summer holidays”. The headline and story is revealing in a number of respects: it is one of a number of articles, particularly in the lead up to the historic Girl Summit in London in July 2014, that reflect increasing community, professional and political concern over the practice of ‘FGM/cutting’. It signals government determination to eradicate this practice yet does so in a tone and language that might be construed as hostile to the very communities and their activists who put FGM onto the front pages in the first place.
Later that week, I was sent a link to the West Midlands Police and Crime Panel press release, which announced that, between January and November 2014, 118 cases of FGM had been referred to the West Midlands Police, and that, while there had been “no reports to West Midlands Police of mutilation in the area”, there had been some intelligence to suggest girls “are brought to Birmingham to be cut”.
Is there a ‘summer surge’ when at-risk children and young people from practising communities are more vulnerable? Is there a risk that some of those children will be sent to Birmingham to be cut? Are these …