Vulnerable girls will be helped by new laws to tackle the scourge of female genital mutilation (FGM) which have been put forward today (20 October 2014), Justice Minister Mike Penning has announced.
Proposals being put forward in the Serious Crime Bill include a new civil protection order which would protect victims or potential victims of FGM. This could include, for example, a requirement for a passport to be surrendered to prevent a girl being taken abroad for FGM.
Victims, potential victims or third parties, including teachers, carers, social workers, local authorities or friends, who believe there is a real risk of FGM taking place will be able to apply to the court for an order.
The government is also creating a new offence of failing to protect a girl from FGM. Anyone who has parental responsibility for a girl who has been mutilated when she was under 16, and is in frequent contact with her, or who has assumed responsibility for such a girl, will be potentially liable if they knew, or ought to have known, that there was a significant risk of FGM being carried out, but did not take reasonable steps to prevent it from happening.
Changes are also being introduced to grant victims of FGM lifelong anonymity from the time an allegation is made to help them report this highly personal offence to the police.
Justice Minister Mike Penning said:
FGM is child abuse and the government is committed to tackling and preventing this harmful and unacceptable practice.
We are introducing an unprecedented package of measures to strengthen protection for victims, encourage them to report the crime to the police and get support. We also want to prosecute those who knowingly let this terrible abuse happen to children they are responsible for.
We know that legislation alone cannot eradicate this unacceptable practice. But it is important that we change the law where necessary.
The Prime Minister announced plans to consult on proposals to introduce new civil orders designed to protect girls identified as being at risk of FGM at the Girl Summit in July 2014. Amendments to the Serious Crime Bill will be tabled today (20 October 2014).
As announced by the government in June 2014, the Serious Crime Bill already extends the extra-territorial offences in the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 so that they cover habitual as well as permanent UK residents involved in offences of FGM committed abroad.
In addition to these law changes, the government is continuing to support and fund community engagement work, raise awareness of FGM and provide training for frontline professionals working with victims.