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Immediate action needed to tackle FGM in the UK, says Home Affairs Committee

Date:3 JUL 2014
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Journals Manager + Online Editor

The Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons has today published its report, Female genital mutilation: the case for a national action plan. The Committee recommends the immediate implementation of a national action plan and specific steps to respond to this growing crisis. The Committee found that:

Prosecuting FGM

A number of successful prosecutions would send a clear message to those involved that FGM is taken with the utmost seriousness in the UK and will be punished accordingly. There should be an extension to the right to anonymity to include victims of FGM to aid prosecution.

The good example of France should be emulated and there is a case for a system that empowers medical professionals to make periodic FGM assessments where a girl is identified as being at high risk.

Professionals in all sectors should ensure the safeguarding of at-risk girls

The Multi-Agency Guidelines on FGM should be placed on a statutory footing to provide a stronger incentive for the provision of training on FGM to all those who need it.

The inclusion of mandatory questioning on FGM for antenatal booking interviews and at GP registration, and changes to the Personal Child Health Record/Red Book to refer explicitly to FGM.

Requiring all schools to provide training on FGM in the remaining in-service training days in 2014 and Headteachers to read guidance or face funding penalties.

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Changes to the law on FGM

The introduction of FGM protection orders similar to those which exist for forced marriage.

Making the failure to report child abuse a criminal offence if other measures to increase the level of reporting are not effective in the next 12 months.

Better services for women and girls living with FGM

The provision of better services for women and girls affected by FGM including refuge shelters for those at risk.

Chair's comments

Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Committee said:

'FGM is an ongoing national scandal which is likely to have resulted in the preventable mutilation of thousands of girls to whom the state owed a duty of care. Successive governments, politicians, the police, health, education and social care sectors should all share responsibility for the failure in recent years to respond adequately to the growing prevalence of FGM in the UK. We need to act immediately.

It is unacceptable that those with clear access to evidence of these crimes do nothing to help those at risk. We must follow the example of France and remove any barriers to referral. Conversations and checking must become the norm. In 12 months’ time, if reporting does not increase, we must make a failure to report a criminal offence.

We owe survivors of FGM the chance to save others from this horrific abuse. Being able to provide anonymous testimony and having a safe place to call home is essential to help eradicate this practice. We must use every opportunity the law allows to give victims a voice.

We pay tribute to the work of a small number of individuals and groups who have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of FGM. The UK should be an international leader in its response. The Prime Minister’s summit later this month presents a vital opportunity to demonstrate that leadership and I hope that our recommendations will be adopted in full.'

The full report is available to download here.