A MIDWIFE consultant is combatting Female Genital Mutilation after 85 cases were reported in Portsmouth last year.
Priscilla Dike and her colleagues in the perineal clinic at Queen Alexandra Hospital will gather today for a walk to raise awareness of FGM, a harmful cultural practice.
The procedure involves the removal by force of all or part of the female genitalia, and some women are unaware that they have been effected.
Priscilla said: ‘This is a matter of personal interest for me and it is still prevalent in our society.
‘All of the relevant authorities and departments should be sharing information so that those who have undergone these serious procedures have the support and guidance they need.’
The Department of Health asked Priscilla to write a guideline on combatting FGM. She has also written books and articles on the subject.
Last year, 85 women attended QA hospital’s maternity ward with signs of FGM.
A number of these women were unaware that they had undergone the procedure.
The department is collating this data for the government in its campaign to raise awareness of the subject and provide protection for children and support for families.
In the UK, FGM is considered to be child abuse and carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
Priscilla added: ‘We don’t often encounter women who have been cut until they visit us for pregnancy care.
‘Most young women don’t inspect their anatomy or compare it to others, so it can go undetected.
‘However, it can cause serious problems for women as they can experience regular UTI’s, issues with intimacy, problems giving birth and general pain from the cut – we call them the woes of womanhood.’
Today marks International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.
A walk through the city centre, starting at Sainsbury’s in Commercial Road, will be attended by Priscilla and police and crime commissioner Michael Lane amongst others holding plaques and spreading the word.
Giant foam clocks have been hung throughout the city to ‘Call Time on FGM’.
Members of the public are being urged to take photos of these clocks and share them on social media with the hasthtag ‘CallTimeonFGM to raise awareness.
The group will also wear orange sashes when they begin their walk at 1.45pm.
Priscilla said that parents living in the UK still send their daughters abroad to have them ‘cut’ and then brought back to Britain.
She added: ‘Parents are encouraging young girls to stretch their anatomy using instruments like needles or things to widen the area, as they believe it makes them more attractive.
‘It causes physical and psychological problems for these young women.
‘We need to get into schools and prevent this through awareness building and safeguarding.
‘We are now taking a preventative approach to make sure that these women and their families are supported.
‘We will show people that this harmful cultural practice should be abandoned.’
The data that is currently being collated by QA is part of a wider research partnership with hospitals throughout the south.
Priscilla is hoping the findings will lead to more training for professionals on FGM care and prevention.
She added: ‘Our focus is to provide the best possible care to vulnerable women who may be dealing with FGM and domestic violence or abuse.’