Police have secured the UK’s first ever female genital mutilation protection order, which bans travel by people who are believed to be at risk of FGM.
As some schools broke up for the summer holidays on Friday, Bedfordshire police seized the passports of two young girls who it was thought could be taken to Africa to be mutilated.
Police obtained the court order under a new power which came into force on Friday. Breaching it is a criminal offence.
DCI Nick Bellingham, from Bedfordshire police’s public protection unit, said: “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,” said Bellingham.
FGM is a procedure that partially or completely removes the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
Bedfordshire police said it was estimated that more than 20,000 girls younger than 15 in the UK were at risk of FGM each year, but very few cases are reported.
Signs that FGM may have been inflicted on a child include a lengthy absence from school, health problems including bladder and menstrual trouble, complaints about pain between their legs, and behavioural changes, police said.
A child may also talk about being taken away for a special ceremony, or say that something has happened to them which they are not allowed to talk about.
Bellingham said: “A change in law isn’t in itself enough to end this barbaric practice. I’d urge anyone who suspects that a child is at risk of FGM to contact police immediately.”