Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) involves procedures that include the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice is painful and has serious health consequences both at the time and later on in life.
FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985 however there has only been one prosecution which was unsuccessful. It is believed that in the UK an estimated 137,000 women and girls have undergone or at risk of FGM.
The Serious Crime Act 2015 now makes it an offence for FGM to be committed abroad by or against those who are habitually resident in the UK.
The 2015 Act further provides anonymity to victims by prohibiting the publication of any information that would be likely to lead to the identification of a person against whom an FGM offence is alleged to have been committed. It is hoped that this will encourage more victims of FGM to come forward.
Crucially the 2015 Act now makes in an offence to fail to protect a girl from FGM. This means that parents or anyone caring for the child “in the manner of a parent” at the time that FGM occurred will be liable under the new offence, the maximum penalty is seven years imprisonment or a fine, or both.
The 2015 Act introduced a civil law remedy for girls at risk of FGM. FGM Protection Orders have been introduced to protect at risk of, or who has suffered, FGM. Breach of this order is a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of five year imprisonment, or as a civil breach punishable by up to two years imprisonment. The FGMPO can contain provisions to protect any victim or potential victim, such as the surrender of a person’s passport or travel document or injunctions to restrict access to the family home or the child’s school.
The 2015 Act has created a mandatory reporting duty requiring specified professionals to make a report to the police. This duty applies where the professionals is informed by the girl that FGM has been carries out or where the professional observes physical signs which appear to show that FGM has been carried out and that there is no reason to believe that the act was necessary for the girl’s physical or mental health or for purposes connected to labour of birth. This duty applies to all doctors, nurses, midwives and teachers