This month, a new power came into force enabling the courts to make female genital mutilation protection orders.
This means that potential or actual victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) can now apply to the Family Courts for a protection order to ensure the necessary steps to guarantee their safety. This includes preventing girls being taken abroad to undergo FGM and the surrender of travel documents and passports.
As well as the girls themselves, other people who can apply for an order include the Police, Local Authorities, teachers, family members and friends.
The Serious Crime Act 2015 also allows judges to remand people in custody for breaching a FGM protection order. Breaches are a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years in prison. Victims are given lifelong anonymity.
In addition, the Act allows the Courts to instruct girls believed to be at risk to live at a particular address so the authorities can check whether they have been subjected to FGM.
On the day the law came into force, Bedfordshire Police obtained an FGM protection order to prevent the travel of two young girls it suspected were going to be taken to Africa to become victims of FGM.
FGM has been illegal in the UK since the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 came into force in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005 came into force in Scotland.
As part of the Serious Crime Act 2015, healthcare workers, teachers and social workers have a legal duty to notify the police if they discover that a girl under the age of 18 years old has undergone FGM.
A recent case confirmed that the Courts will now consider any level of FGM as “significant harm” for the purpose of making a care order in care proceedings brought by a Local Authority. This was the first reported instance of a care case where FGM was the reason for bringing the proceedings. It is anticipated there will be many more cases in the future in light of the new legislation and raised awareness of FGM.
Legal Aid is available to make an application for an FGM protection order.
If you are worried that you are going to be forced into becoming a victim of FGM, if you are worried about someone you know, or if you have been accused of arranging FGM for your daughter, our experienced and sensitive family law team can help.Find out more about our Family department