THE failure to tackle the growing practice of female genital mutilation (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.
In a hard-hitting report, the Commons Home Affairs Committee said FGM may be one of the most prevalent forms of "severe physical child abuse" taking place in Britain, with an estimated 65,000 girls under the age of 13 at risk.
While the practice has been outlawed in Britain since 1985, the first prosecution only took place this year - days before the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders was due to appear before the committee.
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In Scotland, 14 cases where girls have been suspected of being at risk of FGM have been referred to Police Scotland since the force was set up last April.
In its report, the committee blamed a "misplaced concern for cultural sensitivities over the rights of the child" for the failure to deal with a practice largely associated with African communities.
It called for prosecutions to show the issue was being taken seriously in the UK.
The Government should introduce "FGM protection orders", it said, and if necessary a change in the law to make it a criminal offence to fail to report child abuse.
"The failure to respond adequately to the growing prevalence of FGM in the UK over recent years has likely resulted in the preventable mutilation of thousands of girls to whom the state owed a duty of care," it said.
"This is a national scandal for which successive governments, politicians, the police, health, education and social care sectors all share responsibility."