A three-year-old girl has been made a ward of court after South Yorkshire Police identified the child as a potential victim of female genital mutilation (FGM). A High Court judge banned her family from applying for a UK passport or taking her overseas, supported by a ‘non-molestation’ order which can result in prison time if breached.
FGM, the partial or total removal of external female genitalia, is mostly carried out on young girls in adolescence but also occurs during childhood and sometimes on babies. It was banned in the UK by the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, an extension of the initial ban 29 years ago. It is an offence for a UK national or permanent UK resident to carry out FGM or to help or enable someone else to do so and perpetrators face up to 14 years imprisonment.
The practice still occurs in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia but the law still applies even when the victim is taken from the UK to a country where FGM is legal. The Sheffield Star reports that FGM on British girls predominantly takes place outside the UK and police believe it is a vastly under-reported crime.
Detective Sergeant Suzanne Bluck, of South Yorkshire Police, described the High Court’s decision as “a real breakthrough for our force and the protection we can offer to victims and potential victims of this horrific crime.” She continued:
“This is an incredibly taboo issue that we need to continue to talk about if we are going to prevent this monstrosity happening to our young women.
“Let’s be very clear – female genital mutilation is a form of child abuse and as such, it will not be tolerated and we will use whatever options are available to us to safeguard those at risk.
“We believe that this is an issue that will affect certain communities in South Yorkshire and I hope this case encourages victims and potential victims, or anyone with concerns, to come forward and get the support they need.”
Further measures to stop vulnerable children being taken overseas for FGM during the summer school holidays were announced at the weekend by the Prime Minister. Courts will have new powers to force people to give up passports and travel documents if they are suspected of planning to carry out FGM.
There have been no successful prosecutions of people who perform FGM in the UK in the last 20 years. In March this year MPs on the Home Affairs Committee published a report highlighting the “chasm” between the number of reported cases of (FGM) in the UK and the number of prosecutions.
Describing the UK’s record as “lamentable” the report said “someone, somewhere is not doing their job properly.”
Follow Sarkis Zeronian on Twitter: Follow @SarkisZ or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org