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Female Genital Mutilation

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM):

“comprises of all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is sometimes called ‘female circumcision’ or ‘cut’ and is usually carried out on girls between 5 and 8 years old. It can also be carried out on younger or older girls and adult women. The practice is common in African, the Middle East and Asia and it is thought that more than 140 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FGM.

FGM can cause severe and long lasting damage to physical and emotional health and has been illegal in the UK since 1985. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 set the maximum penalty for FGM to 14 years imprisonment and made it a criminal offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to carry out FGM abroad, or to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad, even in countries where FGM is legal. The Serious Crime Act 2015 has also placed a mandatory duty on health, social care professionals and teachers to report cases of FGM in under 18s to the police.

Due to the hidden nature of this crime it is difficult to estimate the true scale of FGM, however, a recent study by Equality Now estimated that over 137,000 women in England and Wales are already living with the consequences of FGM.

Why does it happen?

FGM is a complex issue. There are often huge pressures on families to ensure daughters undergo FGM. Many communities have strong and deeply held beliefs that FGM is a good and necessary thing for girls to go through. Some of the reasons given for practising FGM include:

  • It brings status and respect to the girl.
  • It preserves a girl’s virginity/chastity.
  • It is a rite of passage.
  • It gives a girl social acceptance, especially for marriage.
  • It upholds the family honour.
  • It gives the girl and her family a sense of belonging to the community.
  • It perpetuates a custom/tradition.

What can I do?

If you, or someone you know personally or professionally is at risk of FGM, you can apply to the Court for a Female Genital Mutilation Protection Order (FGMPO). This is a protective Court order which can forbid a person from doing certain things. You can also apply for this order even if you have already been subjected to FGM. The order can be made against any person in the UK or outside who is, may be, or has been involved in the FGM in any way. Some examples of what a FGMPO’s might say include:

  • The Respondent must not take the Applicant out of the London area
  • The Respondent must not harass, pester or molest the Applicant, directly or indirectly
  • The Respondent must halt any arrangements for the procedure of female genital mutilation to be carried out on the Applicant
  • The Respondent must not arrange for any medical or surgical procedures to be carried out on the Applicant’s person.

Although a FGM Protection Order is a civil order, breach of a FGM Protection Order is a criminal offence.

Who should I contact?

If you or anyone else you know have been or are in the process of being forced into having FGM it is important that you get help as soon as possible. Either contact the police directly or get in touch with one of our experienced and professional family solicitors to discuss the details in the strictest confidence. We are experienced in dealing with this area of law and are able to advise, assist and represent you in respect of either making an application for a FGM Protection Order or defending the same. Our solicitors will be able to provide confidential, specialist advice and support.

What about funding?

Legal Aid may be available to you to be represented in relation to an application for a FGM Protection Order. The application process is quick and relatively simple. You may also be eligible for Legal Aid as a Respondent. The availability will depend upon whether or not you meet the criteria set down by the Legal Aid Agency. Please contact one of our experienced family solicitors who will be able to complete an assessment for you.

Useful Links

If you would like to speak to someone who doesn’t know you and your family, there are organisations that you can contact. You can call the NSPCC’s FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550. If you’re worried a girl or young woman is at risk of (or has had) FGM. The NSPCC’s website tells you how to spot the signs, symptoms and effects of FGM.

If you are concerned about your health or anyone else’s you can also visit a free FGM health clinic, where all consultations are confidential. This means that your personal details and any information about your treatment won’t be shared with anyone outside the clinic without your permission.

Our Solicitors are backed by nearly four decades of experience. Our legal practice and team of Family Law Solicitors have a strong track record of achieving favourable client outcomes. For expert legal advice use our contact form or call us on 0808 250 6017 today.