Hundreds of women in Leeds have been confirmed as victims of female genital mutilation – and many more may be suffering in silence.
Figures obtained by the Yorkshire Evening Post show that 61 women were referred to a specialist FGM clinic in Leeds in just six months this year.
Last year 154 women were seen by the clinic which is an increase from 122 women in 2012.
And Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust confirmed that the women who attended the specialist clinic were all born outside the United Kingdom.
But campaigners have warned the figures do not paint a true picture of the scale of the issue affecting hundreds of women in Leeds.
A conference will be held in the city in September to bring organisations together to raise awareness of FGM.
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson, who will speak at the event, said youngsters could be particularly at risk of the practice during the summer holidays
He told the YEP: “It is a sensitive subject so it hard to know what the true scale of FGM is.
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done to encourage victims to come forward.
“There is still a lot of awareness raising and it is all about fully understanding the issues behind it.”
The figures come as new legislation unveiled by the Government reveal that parents who fail to prevent their daughter being subjected to female genital mutilation will face prosecution.
A £1.4 million FGM Prevention Programme for survivors and those at risk were among a raft of plans announced by Prime Minister David Cameron at the Girl Summit yesterday, which was co-hosted by the Government and Unicef.
The measures to combat FGM and forced marriage in the UK and abroad came as Unicef warned advances made in tackling them in the developing world could be reversed if the pace of action is not increased.
Mr Burns Williamson praised the new legislation and added: “This move shows just how seriously this practice is being taken and I hope it will encourage more victims to come forward.
“But partnership working is essential to raise awareness and to help stop this horrendous practice. It is right that if you don’t protect your daughter from this abuse then you should be liable for prosecution in this country.”
Earlier this month MPs warned that the failure to tackle the growing practice of FGM in the UK is a “national scandal” that has resulted in the preventable abuse of thousands of girls, a committee of MPs has said.
The Commons Home Affairs Committee said FGM may be one of the most prevalent forms of “severe physical child abuse” taking place in Britain.
Figures show there are an estimated 65,000 girls under the age of 13 at risk nationwide.
There are an estimated 170,000 women and girls in the UK who have undergone FGM, the report said.