LEADING figures across Greater Manchester are making a stand against female genital mutilation (FGM).

The region-wide pledge against the practice, which has been signed by leaders of Bolton and Bury councils, was launched at Bury Town Hall yesterday.

The scheme was developed by the Greater Manchester Female Genital Mutilation Forum and is aimed at raising awareness and reducing incidents of FGM in Greater Manchester.

The police, health services and all 10 councils in the area have pledged to educate and support those who work with vulnerable children and make them more aware of how they can support victims.

It is estimated that 74,000 women across the UK have undergone FGM, while about 33,000 girls under 16 are at risk of undergoing the procedure.

Greater Manchester police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd said: “This is a way of saying to women in our society that they don’t have to accept the practice of FGM — the police are there to help them.

“It’s shocking to think that, across Greater Manchester, we are one of the areas in the country with the highest levels of risk, so we have got to take action against this.”

Cllr Mike Connolly, leader of Bury Council, said: “Female genital mutilation is very much a Greater Manchester issue.

“It’s happening right on our door step and we all have a role to play in safeguarding victims from this harmful and illegal practice.”

FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons.

The practice is particularly common in some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities, but has become increasingly prevalent across the UK.

It is medically unnecessary, extremely painful and has serious health consequences, both at the time when the mutilation is carried out and in later life.

Those found to have practised FGM face a prison sentence of between nine and 14 years, according to Det Insp Jeremy Pidd, the FGM lead for Greater Manchester Police.

He said: “FGM is a harrowing act — such are the cultural pressures to carry it out, that often neither the child nor the adult can say no.

“We understand and appreciate that, and that is why ultimately is why we have to educate more communities about the practice.”