A review of the law surrounding female genital mutilation protection orders

02 July 2020
27 min read
Volume 28 · Issue 7

Abstract

Performing female genital mutilation (FGM) is prohibited within the UK by the FGM Act of 2003. A mandatory reporting duty for FGM requires regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales to report known cases of FGM in under 18-year-olds to the police. An application to the court for an FGM protection order (FGMPO) can be made to keep individual women and girls safe from FGM. This paper reveals the significant disconnect between the number of FGMPO applications and known recorded cases of FGM. The introduction of FGMPOs requires critical exploration as there is insufficient evidence to show that FGMPOs are effective in protecting women and girls from FGM. It is therefore unclear what impact, if any, FGMPOs are having upon the protection of women and girls at risk of FGM. The barriers to the implementation of FGMPOs and possible solutions are discussed.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genitalia are altered, injured or removed (World Health Organization [WHO], 2020) without medical indication (Crown Prosecution Service [CPS], 2019b). FGM is commonly performed on girls between the ages 4–12 years old as a ‘rite of passage’ to womanhood. However, the age when FGM is performed varies and can be significantly younger. As the campaign against FGM has intensified in the UK, concerns have arisen that parents are cutting children at a younger age to avoid detection (Bentham, 2014).

Performed worldwide, FGM transcends geographical borders, ethnicities and cultures. While the total number of women worldwide who have undergone FGM is unknown, the United Nations Children's Fund ([UNICEF], 2020) estimate there are around 200 million women and girls living today who have been subject to FGM. FGM is also known as female circumcision and other terms including cutting, sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan (NHS, 2019). According to UNICEF (2020), there has been an overall decline in the prevalence of the practice over the last three decades but not all countries have made progress and the pace of decline has been uneven.

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