A FEMALE genital mutilation charity in Oxford has launched a summer campaign to raise awareness among girls who may be at risk.

Oxford Against Cutting launched its drive last Monday across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

Posters will be displayed at bus stops, schools, doctors' surgeries, hospitals, community centres, billboards and on buses.

Girls across the UK are said to be at higher risk of undergoing FGM during summer holidays, outside of term time.

The removal of a girl’s external genitalia is a violation that has affected about 200m women and girls who are currently alive worldwide.

It is estimated that at least 137,000 women and girls in the UK have been affected by the practice which carries physical and psychological problems that can last for a lifetime.

OAC’s posters have been published across Oxfordshire for the past three years and this year and last have been funded by the Allen Lane Foundation.

This year the campaign has been grown and will now include East Berkshire, West Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

OAC director Lena El-Hindi said: “Oxford Against Cutting’s latest poster campaign is important to raise public awareness around FGM.

"People concerned that a girl is at risk can use the information on the posters to connect with frontline services, to hopefully prevent FGM from taking place.

“FGM survivors can also link with the frontline services to connect with support groups around the South East.”

OAC’s mission is to raise awareness, share information, support survivors and develop projects to empower young people to champion anti-FGM initiatives.

Brenda Kelly, the founder of the Oxford Rose Clinic, which is dedicated to FGM survivors at the city’s John Radcliffe Hospital, said: “FGM can lead to serious and lasting problems for physical, sexual and emotional wellbeing.

“Many find it difficult to talk about such problems or may not know that help is available.”

She added: “At the Oxford Rose Clinic, we have a specialist team with experience in providing sensitive and compassionate care for women and girls living with complications of FGM.

“This is a free and confidential service.

“Girls and women can self-refer to the Rose Clinic or speak to their GP to be referred to us.”

OAC said the charity also seeks to highlight positive changes across the country happening to protect girls at risk.

FGM is a traditional practice in communities across the Middle East and Africa. It was made illegal in the UK in 1985 and the maximum sentence would lead to a jail term of 14 years but very few cases have gone to court.

It has no health benefits whatsoever and can cause serious complications including severe pain, haemorrhaging, fever, infections, urinary problems, shock and death.

It can be motivated by beliefs over what is considered sexual behaviour, often aiming to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity.

See oxfordagainstcutting.org