Somalila: More than 1,500 women victims of genital mutiliation

More than 1,500 women victims of genital mutiliation in shock statistics compiled by ONE hospital… and most are from Somalia

  • The barbaric practice is most common in Muslim areas of Africa
  • However at least 11 of the victims were born in Britain
  • The practice is illegal in the UK but there have been no prosecutions

By Chris Pleasance



More than 1,500 new cases of female genital mutilation have been revealed by a single London maternity unit and staff admit that other cases could have ‘slipped through the net.’

St George’s hospital in Tooting has treated nearly  200 women a year since it started keeping records on the violent practice.

While most of the 1,546 victims treated in the hospital’s specialist unit were born in Somalia, disturbing statistics show that at least 11 were born in the UK, where genital mutilation has been a crime since 1985.

crude tools used for the trade


Rudimentary tools are often used to perform the operations, like these found in Kenya (pictured left). The procedure is often performed on young girls like nine-year-old Fay Mohammed (pictured right).

Others were from Nigeria or Eritrea where the practice is common among some Muslim communities.

Campaigners described the statistics as ‘horrifying’ while staff at the hospital said it shows the tribal practice remains relatively common.

Karen Lewis, a midwife at St George’s, warned that some staff  were fearful of getting involved because they saw the backstreet operations as a cultural issue, rather than abuse.

She said: ‘The women we see have often faced years of pain and suffer flashbacks and other psychological problems. Some of them are also terrified of childbirth because of what’s happened to them in the past.’



‘Some of them also don’t realise that FGM is wrong and are quite horrified when we tell them.

‘So we need to do much more to raise awareness and have a big educational campaign to stop it happening to more girls in the future.’

St George hospital


One nurse at St George’s hospital said that some staff view FGM as a cultural issue rather than abuse

Battersea MP Jane Ellison, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on female genital mutilation, said: ‘Many of these women are suffering the chronic health problems associated with FGM.

‘Yet again we are shown that there is a big problem to which our health and other public services must respond.’

Despite the high number of cases – 80 so far this year – nobody has yet been prosecuted for the practice.

The Crown Prosecution Service says it is studying five case files passed on by the Metropolitan Police.

Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has said it is only a matter of time before somebody is prosecuted but efforts are being hampered by victim’s unwillingness to come forward.



Female genital mutilation, or FGM, is a common practice among some Muslim communities across the middle of Africa, including Somalia, Eritrea, North Sudan and central Mali.

It is also present in Muslim communities in Indonesia, Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

The operation involves cutting or removing female sexual tissue. It can also involve stitching using silk thread or catgut.

The process is supposed to cleanse the woman of sexual impurity and victims can spend up to 40 days bound from the waist down while healing.

The operation is usually performed on children or young girls before entering adolescence, though ages vary from community to community.

Given that most surgeries are performed by untrained women, commonly Aunts of the girls or village matrons, risks include infection, pain, sterility, and death due to blood loss.

Due to the nature of the wounds, problems can occur later during childbirth.

While the practice has been illegal in the UK since 1985, there have so far been no prosecutions due in part to victim’s reluctance to come forward, and also because some women do not recognise it as a crime.

The practice is also specifically outlawed in Belgium, Sweden and some US states.

In Africa several nations, including Somalia, have made declarations against the practice though across the continent legislation is patchy and difficult to enforce.




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