Teenage girls from Uganda's Sebei tribe queue before undergoing female genital mutilation in Uganda
Teenage girls from Uganda's Sebei tribe queue to undergo genital mutilationReuters

The number of UK women and teenage girls subjected to female genital mutilation has risen to 170,000 over the last decade.

It is thought that the cause is the increase in the number of migrants from countries where the practice is common.

Sir Keir Starmer, former director of public prosecutions, has contributed to a report on FGM, calling for mandatory reporting of the practice to child protection services and the police. "FGM is child abuse and it's a serious criminal offence," he said.

The report, An Unpunished Crime, was written by Julie Bindel. "The rise in prevalence of FGM in the UK is deeply disturbing, and the fact that this issue has been based for far too long on out-of-date figures is also very worrying," she said in a Sunday Times report.

Out of 3,032 FGM cases treated by hospitals over the past three years, just 3% were reported to the police and 11% to local authorities.

Although FGM is against UK law, there has never been a prosecution of either a "cutter' carrying out FGM or a parent for allowing a child to be mutilated.

"I have talked to midwives in the UK who have been asked by the husband of a woman who has just given birth to restitch her vagina. Not to mention his request that his new baby daughter be mutilated. Fortunately, restitching is forbidden by law," says author and peer of the realm Ruth Rendell, writing in the Daily Mail.

"I have talked to women living in London, Birmingham and Bradford, all of whom have endured FGM as children. They have never forgotten what it was like. It has left its mark not only on their bodies but on their minds and their memory," she added.

Human rights activist and top model Waris Dirie from Somalia
Human rights activist and top model Waris Dirie from SomaliaReuters

Around the world, over 140 million girls and women are believed to have been subjected to FGM, which is widespread in Somalia, Mali and Eritrea.

The Somali fashion model Waris Dirie is a tireless campaigner against the practice.

The first instance of FGM seen by archaeologists was on the mummified body of a young Egyptian woman who died in 300BC. More than 2,000 years later, Egypt is one of the African countries with a high incidence of mutilation, even though the practice is illegal.