200 FGM cases reported in past 18 months

FGM activist and survivor Leyla Hussein with Natalie Smith, Arc Theatre's education director.

FGM activist and survivor Leyla Hussein with Natalie Smith, Arc Theatre's education director. - Credit: Archant

The fight to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) is un uphill struggle, according to a leading campaigner, as the Post can reveal that more than 200 cases have been detected at Queen’s Hospital in the past 18 months.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by the paper uncovered 93 reported cases between May and December 2013 at the hospital which was expanded after the maternity unit at King George Hospital, in Barley Lane, Goodmayes, closed down in early 2013.

Last year 126 women declared that they had undergone an FGM procedure during a pregnancy appointment at the Romford hospital.

Sixteen additional patients failed to notify a physician and therefore it was only discovered during delivery that FGM had been performed.

Natalie Smith, education director of Dagenham’s Arc Theatre, which helps pupils lead peer discussions on FGM, said she “wasn’t surprised” by the figures considering the taboo surrounding the subject.

“It’s a deep rooted cultural tradition and changing mindsets takes time,” she said.

“There is such a level of secrecy. But there has to be another way to celebrate the transition to womanhood – it certainly shouldn’t involve cutting girls’ vaginas.”

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Arc Theatre’s Raised Voices group works with FGM activist and survivor Leyla Hussein to open up discussions through workshops and storytelling – something that Natalie would like to see replicated elsewhere.

She added that she was pleased that mandatory reporting is now standard in hospitals.

“It’s positive in terms of understanding the level of FGM,” Natalie said.

“Hopefully by raising awareness, we will see a significant decrease next year.”

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust interim chief nurse Wendy Matthews said FGM is taken “very seriously”.