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Girls from ethnic minorities at risk from genital mutilation, MSPs hear

GIRLS from ethic minorities in Scotland are at risk from the abusive practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), a Holyrood committee has been told.

MSPs are considering a potential inquiry into the practice in Scotland based on anecdotal reports.

The World Health Organisation says FGM is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers in Africa.

Fatou Baldeh, of the Dignity Alert and Research Forum, who told The Herald she survived the practice, spoke to Holyrood's Equal Opportunities Committee.

"We do know that children are at risk," she said.

"We do know that women from practising communities - some women - do still support the practice of FGM.

"Research in other parts of the UK indicated that many young girls themselves have had to undergo FGM either in the UK or being taken out of the UK. That is evident.

"We also have to consider that practising communities really protect FGM.

"I get emails from people telling me I'm talking too much about our personal things to other people."

It is hard to get people to speak out, she said.

The Scottish Refugee Council says there are no clear figures for the prevalence of FGM in Scotland but that anecdotal reports suggest it is a significant issue. The council points to census details from 2011 showing at least 2403 girls have been born in Scotland to parents from FGM practising countries since 1997.

Jan Macleod, manager of the Women's Support Project, said much of the concern stems from a TV interview from 2012 when a girl said the practice is happening in Glasgow.

She said: "But there has not been any hard evidence found. It would be fair to say our view is that on one hand it's hard to believe it's happening here and yet no child has ever presented at hospital or GP.

"On the other hand, when you look at the numbers of families that traditionally practice FGM, and when you look at the motivations and pressures sometimes on parents to carry on the tradition, then it's hard to believe it's not happening.

"The answer is we don't know. There's a gap in our knowledge there."

Mukami McCrum, of the Kenyan Women in Scotland Association, said: "We never get to the person who actually saw it happen. It's not to say it's not happening, but I think it doesn't help to hype the situation and make it sound as though Scotland has become the place everybody is coming to for FGM."

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