A GROWING number of women reporting female genital mutilation (FGM) is the reason behind a rise in cases, according to a children's charity.

It comes as alarming new NHS figures show there were 15 cases of the cruel procedure in Blackburn with Darwen in the last year.

The figure compares to five cases in the whole of the year from April 2017 to March 2018.

And the NSPCC said it was contacted around 650 times last year about FGM, a huge rise of 36 per cent from 2017/18.

A violent form of child abuse, FGM has been illegal in the UK for more than 30 years.

Kam Thandi, head of the NSPCC Helpline, said the dangerous practice physically and emotionally scars victims and endangers life.

She said: “Those who subject their children to female genital mutilation may do so because of cultural norms or believe it will help improve their daughter’s preparation for marriage and womanhood.

"Yet it’s clear, from the lasting physical and emotional scars on the victims, that it endangers life."

Carried out in secret and often without anaesthetic, FGM involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons.

Victims are usually aged between four and ten, but some are babies.

Girls are often forcibly restrained and it can leave victims in agony and with physical and psychological problems that can continue into adulthood.

Ms Thandi added: “It takes a lot of courage to speak out knowing that those you love could be investigated, or you could be shunned, so it’s no surprise that female genital cutting is cloaked in secrecy.

"However, this is child abuse, it violates the rights of the child, and we need more people in communities to join forces to ensure this dangerous practice is ended once and for all.”

In total, FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK for 34 years.

In 2003 it also became a criminal offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to take their child abroad to have FGM.

Anyone worried about someone who has suffered, or is at risk of FGM, can call the NSPCC on 0800 028 3550 or email fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk