BRADFORD held its Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation last week, as the city took a stand against a practice which has been experienced by an estimated 200 million women and girls worldwide.

Lord Mayor Councillor Doreen Lee, representatives from West Yorkshire Police, local charities, councillors and students were all in attendance at the event, held at City Hall.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a practice where the genitals of a female, usually aged between infancy and 15, are deliberately cut or altered.

The practice, illegal in the UK and considered as child abuse, has been widely condemned for being a painful and traumatic procedure symbolic of gender inequality, all while having no known health or medical benefits.

In December, NHS Digital figures showed that victims of FGM in Bradford were seen by NHS services around 55 times, between January and September 2019.

February 6 marked the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, a UN-sponsored annual awareness day.

In 2017, Bradford Councillor Joanne Dodds tabled a motion which led to Bradford becoming the second British city to declare a day of zero tolerance for FGM. The day has since become annual, and this year was held at City Hall, on 6 February.

It was hosted by West Bowling-based charity Peacemaker International Project, whose Chief Executive, Yemi Fagborun, said, "Today is about assessing what we're doing in the fight against FGM. We believe the practice is a form of abuse and a fundamental violation of the rights of girls and women. Protecting them from FGM is the responsibility of all who believe in justice and fairness.

"We need to work with partners in creating a uniform approach to tackle FGM in Bradford and to make sure that our district is not left behind."

Yemi, who herself underwent FGM as a baby, also thanked those in attendance: "I thank the police, the Council, the NHS and everyone else for their support. We are speaking in Bradford with one voice to protect our women and girls from FGM."

Cllr Joanne Dodds also spoke, saying, "Bradford has always been a pioneer in tackling this kind of thing. Our aim is to make sure everybody is connected and knows what we are doing in this fight."

Alisa Newman, of West Yorkshire Police, said, "We're here to show our unity in stamping out this abhorrent practice. Despite its horrors, FGM remains a taboo - so that's even more of a testament to Yemi and everyone here for standing up. Performing FGM carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years, but the victims, essentially, get a life sentence."

Awards were given at the event, where Bevan Healthcare, Bradford Foodbank, Judy Peltier and Nazneen Kauser were all recognised for charitable work

Rebecca, of Bevan, said "We work with asylum seekers who come here in traumatic circumstances, and not out of choice. FGM is an example of the trauma they face - we try to support any way we can."

Judy Peltier, organiser of Bradford South Carnival, said "Women have to stand up, as women are gatekeepers", while Nazneen Kauser, an outspoken voice against FGM, said, "Thank you to Yemi for creating a safe space to discuss gender-based violence."