FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, and further legislation in 2003 and 2005 made it an offence to arrange FGM outside the country for British citizens or permanent residents. It is an offence for any person (regardless of their nationality or residency status) to perform FGM in England and Wales or assist a non UK person to carry out FGM outside the UK on a UK national or UK resident. If the act is committed against a girl who is under 16, each person responsible for the girl at that time could be guilty of an offence carrying a 7 year prison sentence.
The scale of the problem remains unknown because of lack of reliable data, but the government estimates 170,000 women and girls in the UK have undergone the procedure.
Between April 2016 and March 2017 there were 9,179 attendances reported at NHS trusts and GP practices where FGM was identified or a procedure to assist a victim of FGM was undertaken, most of which were in midwifery or obstetrics services.
Our research has led us to understand the following figures, in London 2.1% of women are affected by FGM with Manchester, Slough and Birmingham having the highest figures.
YET ONLY ONE FGM PROSECUTION HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO TRIAL SINCE 1985 AND BOTH DEFENDANTS IN THAT CASE WERE CLEARED LAST YEAR.
The Commons home affairs select Committee has said “the failure to successfully prosecute a single case of FGM in the UK in the 30 years since it was made illegal is a national scandal”.
Sarah Compton, shadow secretary of state for women, has said that until we get a conviction, only then will the message go out, that this is child abuse, and unacceptable. Home Secretary Amber Rudd says she is determined to see the county’s first successful prosecution for FGM, and that the Government are sending a clear message that FGM will not be tolerated and as such have introduced new measures, including an obligation on teachers, medics and social workers to report FGM in children, and more must be done.
The figures are astonishing. While clear progress is being made at identifying FGM in a health setting, far more must be done in schools to raise awareness of the practice and help teachers’ flag children that are at risk. The FGM Initiative (TFGMI) supported community based organisations in the UK to carry out FGM PREVENTION WORK. The initiative was established and funded in 2010 by 3 independent charitable organisations: Trust for LONDON, The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, and Rosa (the UK Fund for Women and Girls). Note: it was not Government funded.
This £2.8 million initiative has resulted in the success of community led approaches to prevent FGM and support local organisations. However the lack of local investment is a major threat to the health of women and girls in affected communities and the Government’s efforts to end FGM in the UK.
It helped to transform attitudes amongst many affected communities with particular success amongst young people and young mothers who see FGM as an important cultural artefact. It has allowed training for more than 6,000 professionals – including teachers (52% of total trained), health professionals (13%) social workers (7%) and GPS (5%) – with statutory responsibilities to safeguard girls and support women but these figures are still low and there is still a lack of available training of specialist social workers, even in areas believed to have prevalence FGM. (This information was extracted from Communities Tackling FGM in the UK Best Practice Guide; at an event hosted by Karen Bradley MP, Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime.)
We urge the Government to intervene and we await your response with interest.
Reply from:- Holly Casson, Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries
With regards to FGM, it devastates lives, and the Government is committed to ending this abusive practice.
The professionals have a critical role in safeguarding women and girls against FGM. The dept. of health and Social care’s £4 million FGM prevention programme with NHS England continues to work to improve the response to FGM by collecting data to understand the scale of the problem. We provide guidance and training to support NHS staff, and raise awareness so that together we can protect those at risk, provide support to survivors and ultimately end this crime once and for all.
The Government recognises that medical examinations can be an important part of a safeguarding response. For girls at high risk, a requirement to have periodic medical examination or examinations upon return from travel to ‘home countries’ can help protect from FGM. Girls identified as being high risk of FGM may be required to have examinations as part of their individual safeguarding plans where this is necessary for their protection and wellbeing.
However, the Government agrees with the Home Affairs Select Committee’s assessment that a blanket policy of medical examinations for all girls would not be an appropriate response and would not be in line with wider safeguarding practice.
I hope this reply is helpful.