THE number of victims of female genital mutilation seen by health professionals in Barnsley doubled last year, shock new figures have revealed.
Almost a dozen victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) were seen by NHS services in the town in the year to March.
FGM is where female genitals are deliberately cut, removed or changed without a medical justification and is most commonly inflicted on girls under 15, particularly those from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
It can cause problems urinating, complications during pregnancy, childbirth - including an increased risk of newborn death - and severe bleeding.
NHS Digital figures show ten FGM survivors were seen in the Barnsley area - up from five the year before.
All had their injuries reported by health professionals for the first time.
The statistics are not specific, as only approximate figures are recorded in the data to prevent the identification of individual women.
Across the entire country, around 6,380 women who attended GP practices or other health services were indetified as having undergone female genital utliation - and more than 2,700 of those were newly-identified individuals.
The process has been banned in the UK since 1985, but the practice remains widespread - especially in African countries.
According to the United Nations, there are more than four million girls and young women around the world who are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation this year - with more than 200 million being cut in 31 of the most prevalent countries, including Sudan, Egypt, Somalia and Ethiopia.
The UN has aims to erdicate the practice entirely by 2030.
Forward, an African women-led organisation working to end violence against women and girls, said the data does not reflect the true landscape of FGM - and called on greater support for victims accessing health services.
Naana Otoo-Oyortey, executive director of the organisation, said: “FGM remains a concern in the UK and the women who come for support services not only have FGM - they have suffered other forms of abuse, endured a lack of adequate care and faced multiple barriers that prevented them from accessing support.
“There is currently limited policy direction on training, support service, prevention or funding support in relation to tackling effectively FGM in the UK.”
A government spokesperson said it is ‘fully committed’ to tackling the heartbreaking issue.
“We work closely with stakeholders to ensure we do everything we can to protect victims,” they added.
“This includes funding the national honour-based abuse helpline, providing a range of resources to help professionals and communities to address FGM, and preventing the crime from happening in the first place through the introduction of FGM protection orders.”