Female Genital Mutilation Arrest Made at Heathrow

LONDON -- A woman has been arrested at London's Heathrow airport on suspicion of conspiracy to commit female genital mutilation (FGM) after arriving on a flight from Sierra Leone, according to a statement from the Metropolitan Police.

A 13-year old girl traveling with her was taken into the care of social services.

The practice of FGM is common across much of Africa, where it is believed to ensure sexual purity before marriage

Agencies in Britain have run a week-long initiative at several airports aimed at detecting and preventing FGM. Perpetrators of so-called “vacation cutting” – when girls are taken abroad to be cut – are being targeted.

The 38-year-old woman taken into custody is a British national born in Sierra Leone. The girl traveling with her is a Sierra Leonean national.

It's estimated there are more than 60,000 victims of FGM in the U.K. and there is growing pressure on police and prosecutors to bring perpetrators of FGM to justice.

The first prosecution is underway and a dozen other cases are under investigation, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

-- Annabel Roberts

Related link: Horrific Taboo: Female Circumcision On the Rise in U.S.