Categories of FGM
FGM is classified into four categories:
- Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce
- Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora
- Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris
- Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area
Consequences of FGM
- Short-term: severe pain, emotional and psychological shock, haemorrhage, wound infections, urinary retention, injury to adjacent tissues, fracture of dislocation as a result of restraint, damage to other organs.
- Long-term: chronic vaginal and pelvic infections, difficulties with menstruation, difficulties in passing urine and chronic urine infections, renal impairment and possible renal failure, damage to the reproductive system including infertility, infibulation cysts, neuromas and keloid scar formation, complications in pregnancy and delay in the second stage of child birth, pain during sex and lack of pleasurable sensation, psychological damage, increased risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, death.
FGM first became illegal in the UK under the Female Circumcision Prohibition Act 1985 making it a criminal offence to ‘excise, infibulate, or otherwise mutilate the whole or any part of a girl’s labia majora, labia minora or clitoris’.
FGM is now governed by the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, reaffirming the 1985 Act, with the inclusion that it is also an offence to carry out, aid, abet counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM in the UK regardless of nationality and residence status. Performing FGM overseas by a UK national or permanent UK resident is also an offence even in countries where the practice is legal, although in some circumstances the offence may be limited to cases where the victim is a UK national or permanent UK resident.
The 2003 Act sets out two exceptions to the offence; necessary operations performed by a registered medical practitioner on physical and mental health grounds; or an operation performed by a registered medical practitioner or midwife, or a person undergoing training with a view to becoming a medical practitioner or midwife, on a girl who is in labour or has just given birth for purposes connected with the labour or birth.
Any person found guilty of an offence under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 will be liable to a maximum penalty of a fine or up to 14 years imprisonment or both.
FGM Protection Orders
FGM Protection Orders came into force in July 2015; it is a civil measure that can be applied through the family court. The Protection Order offers the means of protecting actual or potential victims from FGM under civil law.
Breach of an FGM Protection Order is a criminal offence carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison. As an alternative to criminal prosecution, a breach could be dealt with in the family court as a contempt of court, carrying a maximum of two years’ imprisonment.
Who can apply for an order?
- The person who is to be protected by the order
- A relevant third party (such as the local authority)
- Any other person with the permission of the court (for example, teachers, health care professionals, police, family member)
FGM Protection Orders are unique to each case and contain legally binding conditions, prohibitions and restrictions to protect the person at risk of FGM. These may include:
- Confiscating passports or travel documents of the girl at risk and/or family members or other named individuals to prevent girls from being taken abroad
- Ordering that family members or other named individuals should not aid another person in anyway to commit or attempt to commit an FGM offence, such as prohibiting bringing a “cutter” to the UK for the purpose of committing FGM.
The court can make an order in an emergency so that protection is in place straightaway.