Hackney FGM campaigner warns the “cutting season” has begun as arrests are made

Hawa Sesay

Hawa Sesay - Credit: Archant

Fears the “cutting season” has begun after a woman was arrested at the weekend for conspiracy to commit female genital mutilation (FGM).

A campaigner voiced the concern after a 40-year-old woman was held in Hackney on Friday under Section 2 of the FGM Act 2003, namely aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring a girl to carry out FGM on herself.

Specialist officers took the girl - a UK national - into the care of social services.

Social worker and FGM campaigner, Hawa Sesay - who is herself victim of the practice - has warned the community to be vigilant.

She said: “This is the cutting season, with a six week summer holiday, they might take their daughter on a “nice summer holiday” and she will come out the other end with cutting.

“It will happen on our doorstep, my advice as a campaigner, is this is a waking up call for all Hackney citizens - if you are a school teacher, a doctor or a social worker, a neighbour or a community leader we need to come together, and open our eyes and our ears for our girls not to be taken away.

“It’s difficult for it to end, people are out campaigning, but still people are doing it, we need more awareness because this is everybody’s business.”

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Ms Sesay, 43, who nearly bled to death aged 13 when she was circumcised, holds a monthly youth group reaching out to girls in Hackney, teaching them to say no to FGM, despite it being standard practice in many African communities.

FGM is widespread in parts of Africa and involves the partial or total removal of external female genital organs, which are cut off frequently without anesthetic.

The procedure is usually carried out in secret and leaves victims in agony.

Survivors can be left with lifelong physical problems and psychological trauma, sexually transmitted diseases, and some even lose their lives.

FGM was made illegal in the UK in 1985, and since 2003 those found guilty of taking a female child out of the country to be circumcised can face up to 14 years in prison.

No one has been convicted of FGM, but in March the Crown Prosecution Service launched an effort to get convictions for FGM, when a doctor and person thought to be encouraging the practice were arrested in November 2013, and are due to stand trial next year.

Another arrest was made in connection with the case on Saturday - a 72-year-old Ugandan man was stopped by police as he was coming through customs at Heathrow Airport on Friday morning after arriving with an 11-year-old girl on a flight from Kampala, Uganda and later arrested.

Both suspects have been bailed pending further investigation.

For more information about Ms Sesay’s group email hawadsesay@yahoo.co.uk.

To contact the NSPCC FGM helpline call 0800 028 3550 or email fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk.