MPs criticise 'chasm' between FGM prosecutions and reports

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MPs have criticised the "chasm" between the number of reported cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK and the number of prosecutions.

The UK has a "lamentable" record on FGM, and "someone, somewhere is not doing their job properly," a report by the Home Affairs Committee said.

There have been no successful prosecutions of people who perform FGM in the UK in the last 20 years.

The government said it was bringing in civil orders to protect at risk girls.

The committee described FGM as an "abominable practice" and a "horrendous form of child abuse".

What is FGM?

Female genital mutilation, often abbreviated to FGM is also known as female circumcision.

It involves procedures that include the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs for cultural or other non-medical reasons. It can also include stitching up the genitals.

It is practised in 29 countries in Africa and some countries in Asia and the Middle East, but is illegal in the UK.

Carrying out female genital mutilation carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

Anatomy of female genital mutilation

In one hospital alone - Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham - 1,500 recorded cases of FGM were recorded over the last five years, with doctors seeing six patients who have undergone the procedure each week, the report said.

"There seems to be a chasm between the amount of reported cases and the lack of prosecutions. Someone, somewhere is not doing their job effectively," the report concluded.

'Barbaric crime'

MPs accused the authorities of "passing the buck", with prosecutors saying they needed evidence, police saying they needed doctors to refer cases to them, and doctors saying they were not properly trained.

The committee recommended that doctors should be prosecuted if they repeatedly fail to report suspected cases to the police.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: "While agencies play pass the parcel of responsibility, young girls are being mutilated every hour of every day.

"This is deplorable. This barbaric crime which is committed daily on such a huge scale across the UK cannot continue to go unpunished."

UK FGM statistics

  • It is estimated that 170,000 women and girls are living with FGM in the UK.
  • It is estimated that 65,000 girls aged 13 and under are at risk of FGM in the UK.
  • More than 2,603 women and girls who went through FGM have been treated by the NHS since September 2014.
  • 499 women and girls with FGM were seen in acute NHS trusts in England in January.
  • More than 200 FGM-related cases were investigated by the police nationally in the last five years.

Source: Home Affairs Select Committee report on Female Genital Mutilation

The committee also said police, midwives and campaigners wanted clarification as to whether or not cosmetic female genital surgery was prohibited under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003.

"We cannot tell communities in Sierra Leone and Somalia to stop a practice which is freely permitted in Harley Street," it said.

Crime Prevention Minister Lynne Featherstone said the government was introducing a mandatory duty on professionals to report FGM, which would "provide clarity for professionals on their responsibilities and give them the confidence to confront FGM".

"The coalition government is bringing in new civil orders to protect girls before they can be subjected to FGM, through the Serious Crime Act, and measures to punish parents who fail to prevent their daughters being cut," she added.

"Our cross-government FGM unit is listening carefully to campaigners and those living with the effects of this harmful practice."

Last month, NHS doctor Dhanuson Dharmasena was cleared of performing FGM on a young mother after she gave birth.

The director of public prosecutions defended the decision to prosecute the case, which was the first of its kind in the UK.

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