South Yorkshire Police fear girls could be taken abroad this summer on the pretence of a holiday or family occasion - to be subjected to female genital mutilation instead.
The warning has been issued as part of a week long series of events in Rotherham aimed at raising awareness of the 'barbaric' practice.
The events have been organised for professionals who work with children and those who could encounter victims and affected communities.
Female genital mutilation involves the removal or injury to female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
While it is thought that the crime predominantly takes place outside the UK, police believe it is vastly under-reported.
Detective Sergeant Suzanne Bluck, of South Yorkshire Police, said: “Raising awareness of a crime that is still largely regarded as ‘taboo’ is absolutely crucial if we are to prevent this abhorrent practise being carried out against young girls and women in Rotherham, and across South Yorkshire.
“We are now approaching the summer holidays, a time when young girls may be taken abroad under the guise of a family holiday or special celebration, when in reality they will be subject to this barbaric act of criminality.
“This is a despicable form of violence against women and girls, and is a violation of their human rights. We all have a responsibility to work together to protect the community from harm and I hope that the week’s events prove insightful and helpful for those attending.”
In the UK it is an offence for a UK national or permanent UK resident to carry out female genital mutilation, or to help and enable someone else to carry it out - even if a victim taken abroad, where the practice is legal.
If convicted, offencers can face up to 14 years in prison.
DS Bluck added: “The message is absolutely clear: Female genital mutilation is against the law. Do not subject your child to this crime and do not allow anyone else to carry out this act.
“This applies both inside and outside of the UK. Any evidence we receive about individuals abusing children in this manner will be subject to robust police action."