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Members of the judiciary, lawyers, the Police, medical professionals, policy-makers, children and women affected by FGM gathered together for a series of talks to accompany the launch of the comprehensive new guide to the law, practice and procedure in respect of FGM,Female Genital Mutilation: Law and Practice.
FGM is now widely recognised, both domestically and internationally, as child abuse and a serious human rights violation. It remains a practice shrouded in secrecy and one that all too often has escaped the reaches of the child protection system. It is vital in order to prevent FGM that all relevant professionals have a clear understanding of the socio-cultural reasons for the practice, the factors that may indicate a girl or young woman is at real risk of being forced to undergo FGM and of the effective preventative legal steps that should be taken.
There has also been criticism that the law itself has been ineffective and inadequate in tackling FGM. Despite the existence over 30 years of a criminal law, there remains no successful prosecution of an offence of FGM. While the Family Court and the High Court have creatively utilised other measures to address FGM, there has historically been no targeted provision to protect those at risk.
In what has been termed by campaigners and survivors as a quiet revolution, recent years have seen a proactive drive towards greater public awareness of the issue and a better frontline understanding of the complexities of FGM. This has now been accompanied by revised legislation and statutory guidance with the introduction of the Serious Crime Act 2015, offering strong reasons for optimism for both the criminal and civil jurisdictions.
There has also been a cultural shift in that many of the applicants in these cases have been mothers who have been cut themselves as children but now seek the protection of the courts for their own daughters.
Female Genital Mutilation: Law and Practiceis a specialist title, written in close consultation with survivors of FGM and frontline practitioners from across the spectrum of disciplines. It provides a comprehensive and readily accessible guide to all of these matters. Set within a human rights framework, the book summarises the key legal developments and debates across international law, family law, immigration and criminal law.
It is hoped that it will be of use to judges, advocates, social workers, teachers, midwives, and other professionals as part of the on-going efforts to combat the scourge of FGM and violence against women and young girls.
The author, Zimran Samuel, is a practising barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London. He is an elected member of the Executive Committee of the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) and holds a position as a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics.
‘Words should not seek to please, to hide the wounds in our bodies, or the shameful moments in our lives. They may hurt, give us pain, but they can also provoke us to question what we have accepted for thousands of years.’ Nawal El Saadawi1
The event has also been reported in the national press. Click here to read the report in the Standard. Female Genital Mutilation: Law and Practice is an invaluable guide to this complex and sensitive topic for judges, lawyers, social workers, teachers, midwives, and other related professionals.
1Walking Through Fire: A Life of Nawal El Saadawi(Zed Books Ltd, London & New York, 15 April 2009).