MORE than 200 women have been treated in Scotland because of female genital mutilation (FGM). The figures are revealed following the first conviction for FGM in the UK and have prompted a call for concerted action to protect women and girls from the “barbaric and traumatic” practice.

The new statistics have been released as a result of a freedom of information request to all Scottish health boards.

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NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde treated women with FGM on at least 138 occasions in the past two years while NHS Lothian treated 93. The other 12 health boards reported extremely low numbers or no cases of FGM after the freedom of information request from the Scottish LibDems.

The National:

“It is a barbaric and traumatic practice that must be completely eradicated,” said deputy leader Jo Swinson. “Nobody should be in any doubt that it is child abuse and against the law.

“The Scottish and UK Governments, police and other services must work closely to protect women and girls from FGM. They must also ensure that there are sufficient resources for training and support services to help women and girls who are victims of FGM.”

Mukami McCrum of Kwisa, which works for the advancement of African Women and their families in Scotland, said increasing numbers of women who had suffered FGM in their countries of origin were approaching the charity for support and counselling but she added they were not aware of any cases that had been committed in Scotland.

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“We have not come across anyone who is doing it here,” she said. “If we did we would refer it to the police and if people have evidence of that and don’t report it then, they are colluding with the people who are doing it.

“More and more people are coming to us to talk about their experiences but we don’t know the scale of the women who are suffering here because it is a very hidden subject.”

She said the charity could do more to help but struggled with funding.

“There is a disparity in the rhetoric where everybody supports the work against FGM but resource allocation is another matter.

“As an African women led organisation Kwisa is best placed to lead in the struggle against FGM but we don’t even have space with privacy to give people counselling or advice in confidence. If people want to see us they have to make an appointment so that we can book a room but that is not good enough especially if the woman or girl is scared and doesn’t want her family to know where she is going.

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“We don’t have adequate resources to employ core staff, working full time to support and families. The work is done by board members and volunteers who do not have enough time and therefore we are always running ragged.”

The National:

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said they had no confirmation that FGM was being practised in Scotland, but that there was “intelligence that cutting does happen elsewhere in the UK”.

At NHS Lothian, Dr Duncan McCormick, consultant in public health medicine, said: “We are very clear in our commitment to and responsibility for identifying and treating children and women at high risk of FGM in Lothian.

“It is a form of abuse and gender based violence that has serious short and long term physical and psychological consequences, and if any health professional has concerns they have a responsibility to share that information to safeguard the wellbeing of women and children.

“FGM is a hugely complex and sensitive issue that requires health professionals to approach the subject carefully.

“We need to ask the right questions in a straightforward and sensitive way to establish the understanding and relationship needed to ensure that the girl or woman, and her family members, are given the care, protection and safeguarding they need.”

Police Scotland told The National that no crimes of FGM had been recorded on their crime management systems.

Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal, lead for Public Protection, Police Scotland, said: “The first conviction for FGM in the UK last week simply highlights there are still barriers that prevent reporting of this horrific form of child abuse.”

A Scottish Government consultation on strengthening existing legislation on FGM has just closed.

Minister for Older People and Equalities Christina McElvie said: “Scotland already has robust laws in place to tackle this illegal practice and we want to strengthen protections further.”