Razor blades used to carry out female genital mutilation (Reuters) Reuters

Bedfordshire Police has issued the UK's first ever a protection order to stop two girls believed to be at risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) from travelling to Africa.

The order was issued the same day a new law aimed at protecting girls from the mutilation was implemented in Britain.

According to the legislation, authorities can stop people from travelling if they are suspected of planning to take girls abroad to undergo the mutilation. Breaching the order is a criminal offence.

Detective Chief Inspector Nick Bellingham from the Public Protection Unit said in a statement: "This legislation is a really positive step forward in the fight against this horrific, cruel crime, and we're pleased to have been able to enforce it today by issuing a protection order.

"With schools breaking up for the summer holidays today, we will continue to use this legislation where needed to prevent young girls who we believe may be at risk from being taken out of the country.

"This is child abuse, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that children are kept safe and that those responsible are caught."

FGM, usually carried out for cultural and religious purposes, involves the alteration and removal of female genitals for non-medical reasons and is considered a violation of fundamental women's rights. It is still practised in several countries in Africa and the Middle East, and in some countries in Asia and Latin America.

Haemorrhage and infection deriving from the practice can cause girls, usually under the age of 15, to die. Long-term consequences include recurrent bladder or urinary tract infections, cysts, infertility, childbirth complications and newborn deaths.