The government has launched a consultation asking for views on how best to introduce mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation (FGM).
Crime Prevention Minister Lynne Featherstone and Communities Minister Stephen Williams also announced the recipients of government funding to tackle FGM and details of a specialised cross-government unit that will spearhead efforts to end the practice.
FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985, but only two prosecutions have been brought. Victims and witnesses often come under pressure from their family or community not to speak out.
The government believes mandatory reporting should help increase the number of reports of FGM to the police from professionals. It is hoped this will lead to further prosecutions that will deter perpetrators and protect victims.
Crime Prevention Minister Lynne Featherstone said:
The government is clear that FGM is a crime and it is child abuse. We will not tolerate a practice that can cause extreme and lifelong physical and psychological suffering to women and girls.
However, FGM is a highly complex and sensitive issue and we must tread carefully to ensure that all our actions put survivors and potential victims first.
This consultation will allow survivors of FGM, health care professionals and charities working in this field to offer their views.
Following the success of this summer’s Girl Summit the government is determined to keep up the momentum and do everything we can to put an end to FGM within a generation.
The government has also set out details of its new FGM Unit, which will help to deliver training workshops and roadshows, work with police to improve the identification of offenders and act as a hub to identify and share best practice.
Further to this, the successful applicants for £270k of FGM funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government have been announced. The money will support 17 frontline projects to help stop FGM and ‘honour’ based violence in cities including London, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham.
Communities Minister Stephen Williams said:
I first became aware of Female Genital Mutilation when a Somali woman came to one of my MP surgeries – I was horrified at what I heard about this deeply embedded cultural practice. This practice has no medical benefits, indeed it results in great pain and distress as well as causing medical complications during child birth.
That’s why I am proud that the government is making good on its pledge at the Girl Summit to invest in these worthwhile projects, which will change hearts and minds in local communities, train frontline workers and help bring an end to this practice.
Other government work to tackle FGM includes new legislation to grant victims of FGM lifelong anonymity from the time an allegation is made; the introduction of new civil orders designed to protect girls identified as being at risk of FGM; and new legislation that will mean parents can be prosecuted if they fail to prevent their daughter being cut.