THE issue of female genital mutilation is "not being taken seriously by government", a new report has suggested.
Research carried out by Ulster University has found women who have undergone the procedure feel there is an "absence of adequate support".
An event at Stormont yesterday heard around 3,780 women in Ireland have undergone the procedure, although there is no data relating to Northern Ireland.
The procedure involves the removal of part or all of external genitalia for non-medical reasons, but can lead to chronic infection, severe pain, childbirth complications and psychological trauma.
The 'scoping study' on the current state of female genital mutilation (FGM) was commissioned by the African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland (ACSONI).
Dr Fiona Bloomer from Ulster University said the study had "identified a series of key issues in relation to FGM in Northern Ireland".
"Whilst significant progress has been made, for instance in developing and publishing multi-agency guidelines, the research found that there was no clear implementation plan for the guidelines and the absence of a departmental body to lead on this suggested to stakeholders that this issue was not being taken seriously by government.
"The research demonstrates that women from the communities affected by FGM want to engage on this issue but the absence of adequate support is hampering this."
Alliance assembly member Paula Bradshaw, who launched the report, welcomed the opportunity to "raise awareness of this extremely important report".
Jospeh Rickett from the ACSONI said: "It is imperative that information is distributed widely to enable those at risk to be supported and safeguards put in place to end such practices".