Female Genital Mutilation
Representational image REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

Girls across England have reportedly been taking part in genital mutilation parties. In particular, African midwives are being flown to England to perform the illegal practice, referred to as FGM, on young girls, a charity group in Leeds called Black Health Initiative told BBC News in a Tuesday report.

“We know of parties happening here in England, and in West Yorkshire we recently had to break one up, and we've stopped another from taking place,” said Heather Nelson, Chief Executive of the Black Health Initiative. "What we're finding now is that where once girls were taken abroad to be cut, specialist midwives are now flown over and several girls are cut at the same time, which then leads to a celebration."

Nelson said the charity became aware of the FGM parties after an eight-year-old girl was discovered in a school bathroom last week in severe pain following an FGM operation. School officials told Nelson they thought the young girl was cutting class. However, it turned out that the student had been trying to use the bathroom for more than an hour but was struggling because of the pain she was experiencing.

West Yorkshire Police confirmed they were aware women and girls were undergoing FGM procedures throughout the country, but authorities said they had no “specific intelligence” of FGM parties happening around the city.

Other cities where the FGM parties have been taking place include Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and London.

FGM, which is the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons, is an illegal practice in the U.K. and most countries around the world. In the U.K., the charge carries up to a 14-year jail sentence. However, many countries, particularly in Africa, view FGM as a cultural tradition that prepares a young girl for adulthood and marriage. The practice has often been used as a method to keep unmarried women and girls from engaging in premarital sex.

More than 8,000 women across England have undergone FGM, the National Health Service in the U.K. said. Most of the women who have undergone the procedure in the U.K. come from countries like Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Yemen and other countries.

In the United States, FGM practices have doubled in the past 10 years, according to a 2014 Population Reference Bureau (PRB) report. At the time, the PRB said 166,173 females had FGM procedures in the states, with the risk of that number increasing upwards to half a million when combining U.S. figures with the number of women and girls undergoing the procedure abroad.