Following a government announcement in February 2015, from 31 October the duty of front-line professionals to report suspected cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) will become mandatory
The Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation has announced the commencement date for mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation (FGM) and published guidance
to help professionals get ready for the new duty.
The intention to initiate the measure was first established in July 2014 by the Prime Minister at the Girl Summit 2014
- the first global summit to increase and encourage both domestic and international efforts to end FGM once and for all. The then-coalition government made several commitments for new legislation to commence in 2015 that would oppose and tackle FGM, including the intention to introduce mandatory reporting to police of suspected FGM by frontline professionals such as teachers and health and social care workers.
Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders (FGMPOs) came into force in July 2015 after also being initially proposed at the Girl Summit. Court-authorised FGMPOs will work in conjunction with the new mandatory reporting duties for the purpose of protecting a girl against the commission of or against whom such an offence has been committed.
The statutory duty to report FGM cases is contained in the FGM Act 2003 under s 5B (inserted by the Serious Crime Act 2015, s 74
). Under this new duty, if in the course of their professional obligations a professional discovers that FGM has been carried out on a girl under the age of 18 years (either via disclosure by the victim herself, or observing physical signs that suggest that FGM has been undertaken), that professional must report their findings to the police within a month. Failure to do this will result in internal disciplinary measures being carried out or referral to their professional organisation.
Some health bodies have opted to go a step further and refer every woman with FGM who has a daughter to social services. However, this practice has been criticised for having the potential to push FGM back underground (BBC News, 24 September 2015
In February this year the Crime Prevention Minister, Lynne Featherstone, was optimistic of the success of the impending duty:
‘FGM is a criminal offence and child abuse. It can cause extreme and lifelong physical and emotional suffering … We all have a responsibility to do all we can to put a stop to it.
We believe that introducing a mandatory duty will provide clarity for professionals and give them the confidence to confront FGM. It will aid police investigations and increase the number of perpetrators caught and prosecuted.’
Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation Karen Bradley said:
'FGM is a crime and it is child abuse, and this Government will not tolerate a practice that can cause extreme and lifelong physical and psychological suffering to women and girls.
The duty is an important step forward in tackling this practice, and we believe that it will make sure professionals have the confidence to confront FGM.
There is clear evidence that existing systems are not yielding appropriate referrals to the police. We need to ensure that where a serious crime has been committed, the police are informed and can instigate an appropriate multi-agency response to protect girls and bring perpetrators to justice.'
FGM, also known as female circumcision, is defined as the partial or total removal of female external genitalia for non-medical reasons. Not only is it a painful and exceedingly dangerous procedure, it frequently leads to severe infections and complications with conception and childbirth; sadly, in many cases, it proves fatal. The age at which FGM is performed is highly dependent on the surrounding community: a girl may undergo the procedure at any point from the early stages of infancy to a point during her first pregnancy. However, disturbingly, the majority of FGM cases are thought to take place on young girls between the ages of 5 and 8 years old.
Despite being a recognised criminal offence in Britain since 1985, no-one has been successfully prosecuted for performing FGM. It is hoped that the implementation of these new duties surrounding the confrontation of what is a cold and shocking crime will be a resounding success.