MPs have criticised Britain’s “lamentable” record on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), saying there is a “chasm” between reported cases and prosecutions.
The Home Affairs Select Committee also accused doctors, police and prosecutors of not doing their jobs properly as no successful prosecutions for the practice have been brought in the last 20 years, the BBC reports.
FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external parts of the female genital organs for cultural reasons. It can even involve sewing up the genitals. It is illegal in the UK but commonly practiced in 29 African and some Middle Eastern countries. Anyone found to have carried out the procedure faces up to 14 years in prison.
The committee described FGM as a “horrendous form of child abuse” and an “abominable practice”.
An estimated 170,000 women in Britain are believed to have had the procedure performed on them, with an extra 65,000 girls under the age of 14 “at risk”. One hospital, Heartlands in Birmingham, recorded 1,500 cases of the practice in the last five years, although no one was ever prosecuted for carrying them out.
Last month, NHS doctor Dhanuson Dharmasena was cleared of performing FGM on a young mother in what was the only prosecution of its kind in the UK.
“There seems to be a chasm between the amount of reported cases and the lack of prosecutions. Someone, somewhere is not doing their job effectively,” the report said.
MPs also accused authorities of “passing the buck” with prosecutors accusing police of giving them insufficient evidence, police accusing doctors of not referring cases and doctors saying they were not properly trained.
Committee chairman Keith Vaz accused authorities of playing “pass the parcel of responsibility”, adding: “This is deplorable. This barbaric crime which is committed daily on such a huge scale across the UK cannot continue to go unpunished.”
The committee said that a further source of confusion was whether consensual female genital cosmetic surgery was illegal under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. The report said: “We cannot tell communities in Sierra Leone and Somalia to stop a practice which is freely permitted in Harley Street.”
Lynne Featherstone, the Crime Prevention Minister, said the government was making it mandatory for professionals to report any cases of FGM they come across. She adding: “The coalition government is bringing in new civil orders to protect girls before they can be subjected to FGM, through the Serious Crime Act, and measures to punish parents who fail to prevent their daughters being cut.
“Our cross-government FGM unit is listening carefully to campaigners and those living with the effects of this harmful practice.”