Criminal Offence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) : The Law in Motion

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Finally, a mother is found guilty of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in England and has been convicted. More awareness around the topic of FGM is needed, but last Friday’s ruling, which is a landmark one is certainly a step in the right direction. This was only the fourth FGM prosecution brought to the Courts, as others have led to acquittals.

For many, the law is often seen as being unreachable and many feel that it does not protect them, particularly where cultural obedience and following in the foot-steps of elders supersedes any laws of this country. This is what they have known all their young lives, no real light has been shed on the issue and no information or education given to women from ethnic cultures, possibly because the subject of FGM is not spoken about in the open or in fact, behind closed doors. It is just something that happens.

Maybe the topic is too sensitive to speak about? Or maybe the subject is still a ‘taboo’ shrouded by fear. But what is for sure, is that unless more awareness is brought to the topic and more voices are heard, the number of convictions will never raise, and the offence will inevitably continue.

Children as young as 3 have no voice! Those around them, who often know better but are quickly silenced or too afraid to speak out to protect young girls should today breathe a sigh of relief. Whilst the government has awarded more powers and made it a legal obligation for the medical profession to be aware of and report any incidents or their suspicions surrounding the topic of FGM, thousands of young girls fall through the net.

In an age where women can vote, and be managing partners of multi-national companies, women and girls should not be made to feel scared, but rather know that they are protected, and the law is there for them.

Quite simply, more needs to be done to protect these vulnerable young women and girls.

So, what is FGM? The law states that:

A person is guilty of an offence if he excises, infibulates or otherwise mutilates the whole or any part of a girl’s labia majora, labia minora or clitoris.

It is a criminal offence, whether the offence was carried out in the UK or abroad.

Who can be prosecuted?

A person is guilty of an offence if he aids, abets, counsels or procures a person who is not a United Kingdom national or permanent United Kingdom resident to do a relevant act of female genital mutilation outside the United Kingdom.

Female Genital Mutilation Protection Order (FGMPO)

An Order can be applied for if someone has been subjected to FGM or where someone recognises that they will be forced into FGM. The FGM does not have to have occurred in order for protection to be sought. The FGMPO order contains provisions that can restrict a person’s actions or require them to take certain steps in order to protect girls subject to FGM. The order can be made against any person in the UK or outside and can include anyone from a mother to any family member.

Friday’s ruling will hopefully pave the way for more prosecutions and reassure these vulnerable communities that help is available. It will, hopefully act as a threat to those who see FGM as a cultural norm and not a criminal offence.