Ongoing failure to tackle "national scandal" of female genital mutilation
15 September 2016
The Home Affairs Committee says everyone involved in protecting children must be made aware of, and prevent, female genital mutilation (FGM), a form of child abuse when practiced on girls. The duty on frontline professionals to report incidences of FGM must be enforced with stronger sanctions.
Not one successful prosecution
The Committee says it is "beyond belief" that 30 years after FGM was made illegal in the UK there has been not one successful prosecution: a "lamentable record" that will deter those brave enough to come forward to report and address this violent crime.
The Committee says that the ongoing failure to bring a successful prosecution for FGM is a "national scandal that is continuing to result in the preventable mutilation of thousands of girls".
The paucity of good data on this crime in the UK makes it difficult to assess the scale of the problem, but a City University study estimated that there were approximately 137,000 women and girls subjected to FGM who were permanently resident in England and Wales in 2011.
- The Committee is alarmed by reports that some clinicians are ignoring the duty on frontline healthcare professionals, social care workers and teachers to record data on FGM incidence and repeats its call for Government to introduce stronger sanctions for failing to meet the mandatory reporting responsibility.
- Cross-departmental efforts to tackle FGM are disjointed. The Home Office's FGM Unit should be made a joint enterprise between the Home Office, the Department of Health and the Department for Education, with the remit, powers and budget to become the sole source of Government policy for safeguarding girls at risk and meeting the Government's ambition to eradicate FGM "within a generation".
- The Government's efforts to safeguard girls at risk of being taken abroad to undergo the practice — particularly during school holidays, a time known as the 'cutting season' — are welcome, but it must provide better intelligence to airside Border Force officers on the regional prevalence of FGM within practicing countries. That would enable a more sophisticated targeting of individuals likely to be abetting the crime. To achieve that, the FGM Unit must immediately form operational links with police and Border Force airside operations, to provide intelligence and guidance on high-risk countries.
- Overall, the Committee is calling for a more sophisticated, data-driven approach to eradication that would see the Government engage directly with affected and at-risk women and girls. The Government must conduct research to ascertain attitudes towards FGM, the motivations for continuing to inflict the procedure, and to measure awareness the law prohibiting it amongst practicing communities.
Interim Chair's comments
Tim Loughton MP, Interim Chair of the Committee, said:
"FGM can leave women and girls with significant lifelong health and psychological consequences. We intend to continue to draw attention to this horrific crime to improve the safeguarding of at-risk girls.
We are dismayed that there have been no convictions for FGM-related offences. When we next review FGM, the new laws against the practice will have 'bedded in' and we expect to see a number of successful prosecutions.
We welcome many of the steps that the Government has taken to prevent FGM and our report calls for that work to be enhanced and strengthened with adequate resources and support for frontline professionals and other groups which work directly with practicing communities."
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