The UK “lags behind in [the] FGM fight” a top French lawyer has warned. Linda Weil-Curiel, who has been instrumental in France’s relative success at countering female genital mutilation (FGM), has described her shock at how far the UK has to go to end the practice.
Weil-Curiel told the Times that FGM is “the most sexist act in the world,” and that she believes the UK is where France was 20 years ago – only just starting to wake up to the problem – and remains hampered by political correctness.
Shocking new figures prompted a major human rights organization to describe the UK as the “female genital mutilation capital of Europe” in January.
Nearly 2,000 cases of female genital mutilation were newly identified in England between September 2014 to December 2014, according to statistics from January. It is estimated there are 60,000 girls born to mothers who have been mutilated overall.
Weil-Curiel was called to give evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2014, where she was horrified to learn that there has only been one prosecution for FGM in the UK (which ended in an acquittal). France has brought more than 100 over the past two decades – with Weil-Curiel involved in almost half of them.
When Weil-Curiel (the child of immigrants) started campaigning in France two decades ago she faced strong resistance form left-leaning elites that argued the crimes must be excused to respect immigrant communities and avoid offending parents.
Exactly the same arguments are being raised in Britain today, she says.
Early prosecutions in France were made for “failing to provide reasonable care.” Yet Weil-Curiel argues that removing a part of a girl’s genitalia is exactly the same as cutting off a hand, gouging an eye out, or disable someone in any way.
Perpetrators need to be prosecuted more rigorously, she says, and for the more serious offence of committing torture, acts of barbarity or mutilation, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years when involving a child under the age of 15.
British authorities have yet to gather enough evidence to convict a mutilator, largely because they rely on victims to denounce their own abuser. France avoids that problem by putting doctors in the front line of the legal battle.
In France, medical inspections of at-risk girls (and boys) under six are standard. Yet when Weil-Curiel recently spoke to a senior British female politician she expressed horror at the notion. But Weil-Curiel believes a new approach is needed in the UK if anything is to change.