Our last post was a call for greater awareness of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and our horror at the way the practise of cutting young girls can continue in communities in Britain seemingly without fear of prosecution.
To write on the subject last week was good timing. Over the weekend reports and comment in the national press indicated that the challenge of eradicating FGM is gaining support and prosecutions will become more common. However, it is still far from easy to see how this will come about.
The director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has criticised medical staff for the poor number of referrals. Only 11 cases of female genital mutilation have been referred for prosecution by the police to the Crown Prosecution Service in the last three years, even though at least 144 complaints were made to police. The first prosecution for female genital mutilation was announced two weeks ago. It is 29 years after it became illegal in England and Wales.
The DPP was appearing before the House of Commons home affairs select committee, the Chairman of which, Keith Vaz said they had taken evidence that as many as 66,000 women in England and Wales had been subjected to FGM. “Eleven referrals sounds a very small figure,” he said.
The DPP claims it is lack of evidence that prevents prosecutions proceeding, rather than loopholes in the legislation. That is why she wants reporting by health staff to become compulsory, but she would not go so far as to say compulsory examination of girls, such as that required in France, should become part of British law.
We appreciate that this is a legal issue that is fraught with difficulties, but it is too important to be lost in a mire of discussion. Even the announcement of a prosecution has met with concern, as the case is not straightforward, involving as it does a repair rather than the actual act of FGM.
What do you think? Are we guilty of talking too much and doing too little? How should medical staff approach this? Are you in favour of compulsory examination of girls? After all it has almost eradicated FGM in France.
We would love to know your views. This is a subject we will come back to and a campaign we are committed to supporting.