What are the police doing to combat FGM?

At the age of 11, Sarian Karim Kamara became a victim of FGM.

She says she was initially excited to take part in the “Bondo” ritual in her homeland of Sierra Leone, where FGM is viewed as a young girl’s initiation into womanhood.

But the 36-year-old mother of five, who now lives in Peckham, south east London, said she was “naive” and was left with complications in later life while giving birth.

“Trauma”

Sarian Karim Kamara, victim of FGM
(Royal College of Midwives/PA)

She was among 15 young girls to be “initiated” in Sierra Leone after being promised new clothes and gifts.

Describing her ordeal, Kamara said: “When we got to the bush, I was blindfolded. I was taken into a separate room and pinned down by a group of women and a very big woman sat on my chest.

“I was so young and naive that I did not know exactly what was removed until I was an adult.”

“I really went through a lot of trauma,” she said.

Awareness

A traditional midwife in Burkina Faso speaks out against FGM
A traditional midwife in Burkina Faso speaks out against FGM. (DFID/Flickr)

“Most women and girls affected don’t know it’s a crime,” said Kamara.

“People who are doing it to their children believe they are doing it for the right reasons. Most cannot read or write so they don’t know it’s against the law here.

“It’s very important to point it out to them and let them know there is help if they find themselves being pressured by their family members or the community.”

“The fact people are realising how bad the practice is and its effect on girls and women like me, it’s a positive thing. It’s going to take time.”

West Midlands Police response car
(West Midlands Police/Flickr)

Police investigations on the rise

The Press Association sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to every police force in the UK asking how many cases of FGM had been investigated, and the number of people subsequently arrested or charged, between 2011 and June this year.

Many forces refused to reveal whether any cases were recorded, claiming it was not in the public interest because those involved in the practice might benefit from the information.

Graphic showing FOI data regarding police investigations into FGM

Despite the tiny numbers of arrests, Kamara is still pleased the police are doing anything at all. “For the police to be investigating these cases, it shows lots of people are aware now and people working with women and children are confident to ask questions.

“If the prosecutions came it would be a good thing, but we want education.”

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