Campaigners against female genital mutilation (FGM) have cautiously welcomed government moves to require professionals to report suspected cases of FGM, but warned of the risk of alienating communities and forcing the practice further underground.

On Friday the government launched a consultation into mandatory reporting of FGM that will ask which professionals should be forced to report, how it should be introduced and what punishment frontline professionals should face if they fail to report a case.

"Girls who are at risk have to be protected and it has been very challenging for police to launch investigations without information from the frontline," said crime prevention minister Lynne Featherstone, the government lead on FGM. "Frontline professionals need clarity on this. If a boy came to a professional with half of his penis missing there would be no question about whether it should be reported."

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