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Categorized | Criminal Justice, Law Updates

Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation

Schools are out, and the long summer break is the time when many girls – the estimate is 500 to 2000 – will fly, unsuspecting, to Africa, the Middle East and parts of the Far East, ostensibly for a holiday, but in fact to be circumcised.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It has no health benefits for girls and women and is internationally recognised as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM. It is mostly carried out on young girls at some time between infancy and age 15 years. In Africa an estimated 92 million girls from 10 years of age and above have undergone FGM. Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths. Speaking in a Commons debate last Tuesday, Tory MP Jane Ellison said: “In every case, the health of the girl or woman is damaged, often irreparably. What is most shocking of all is that a great many of these criminal acts are perpetrated against girls aged 10 and under, right down to infants. It is “the unkindest cut of all”, as FGM is carried out in the full knowledge of those who are supposed to protect their children – their families.”

FGM’s prevalence in the UK is difficult to estimate because of the hidden nature of the crime. A recent study based on census data suggested that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 could be at high risk of FGM in England and Wales each year, and nearly 66,000 women in England and Wales are living with the consequences of FGM. Asha-Kin Duale, a community partnership adviser in Camden, is quoted in the ‘Observer’as saying: “”FGM has a social function and until this is understood by social services and other bodies they will never stop it. It is a power negotiation mechanism, that women use to ensure respect from men. It prevents rape of daughters and is a social tool to allow women to regain some power in patriarchal societies.”

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 makes it illegal to practice FGM in the UK. It also makes it illegal to take girls who are British nationals or permanent residents of the UK abroad for FGM, whether or not it is lawful in that country, and to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad. It provides for a penalty of up to 14 years in prison. In the Commons, however, Jane Ellison lamented that: “Since 2008, there have been more than 100 Met investigations into cases of FGM, but despite that, and even though FGM has been illegal since 1985, there have been no convictions to date. France has made more than 100 successful prosecutions.”

The government has launched new guidelines to support front-line professionals such as teachers, health professionals, police officers and social workers to prevent and tackle FGM. Replying to the Commons debate, Home Office minister Jeremy Wright said: “We need to broaden awareness more generally and we have sent out some 40,000 leaflets and 40,000 posters…because wider society needs to understand what is happening. We also need to assist victims, which we are doing with 15 specialist NHS clinics offering a range of services, including so-called reversal surgery. Finally, this is a cross-government issue. It is not simply the Home Office that must act but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for Education and the Department of Health.”

The full text of ‘Multi-Agency guidelines: Female Genital Mutilation’ can be found at:

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/crime/FGM?view=Binary

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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