By Lucy Adams for BBC News
A BBC investigation has revealed concerns that young girls are being brought to Scotland to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) because the country is seen as a “soft touch”.
Agencies claim that families from England and Europe have travelled to Scotland to have their daughters cut.
They also said girls living in Glasgow and Edinburgh have undergone FGM in Scotland and the problem is increasing.
The equalities minister said anyone who was aware of FGM had a duty report it.
Shona Robison said people who had aided or carried out the procedure, either in Scotland or abroad, faced up to 14 years imprisonment.
FGM takes different forms but traditionally involves the full or partial removal of young girls’ genitals for non-medical reasons.
The cutting is carried out for a number of reasons but in many areas girls are cut to improve their marriage prospects.
The practice is most common in the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, in some countries in Asia and the Middle East.
It has long been associated with countries such as Mali, Somalia and Sudan and some parts of the Middle East.
FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
- Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
- About 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
- Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating. It can later lead to cysts, infections and infertility, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
- The practice is most common in the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, in some countries in Asia and the Middle East
- According to the World Health Organisation, more than 18% of all FGM is performed by health care providers, a trend which is increasing
It is estimated about 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
UK legislation to criminalise FGM was introduced in 1985 but since then there has not been a single prosecution. Scottish legislation in 2005 made it illegal to take girls abroad to conduct the practice.
Det Ch Supt Gill Imery of Police Scotland said every daughter born in Scotland to a woman who had undergone FGM should be considered a child protection case.
“It most definitely is a form of child abuse and would be investigated as such,” she said.
New Scottish government figures, seen by the BBC, revealed that between 1997 and 2011, 2,403 girls were born in Scotland to a mother from an FGM-practicing country.
However Det Ch Supt Imery revealed that police had not received a single referral from the health authorities.
The BBC sent Freedom of Information requests about FGM to each of Scotland’s 32 local councils and 14 health boards.
The majority of health boards were unable to say how many cases they had encountered. Less than a third of the 32 councils had specific local guidelines on FGM and less than 10 cases had been referred to social work.