1)The work that has been done by the media, politicians and most importantly by survivors and campaigners has raised the profile of FGM, so that many more people are aware of this horrendous form of child abuse. However, it is still the case that there have been no successful prosecutions for FGM in the UK in the last 20 years. This record is lamentable. The message must be repeated clearly: the practice of FGM is abominable and it must be challenged wherever it is found. A sustained campaign will increase awareness among professionals of the training that is available to them, and direct victims of FGM to the support services that are provided.
2)The Committee welcomed the first prosecution under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 brought by the DPP a few days before she was to appear before the Committee as part of our first report into FGM. The first prosecution under the Act was a problematic case: it was not a “classic” example of primary FGM involving a child, and the defence argued successfully that the defendant’s actions were clinically indicated and were in the best interests of the patient.
3)In Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham alone, 1,500 cases of FGM were recorded over the last five years, with doctors seeing six patients who have undergone the procedure each week. 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 DPP informed the Committee that she could only prosecute on the basis of evidence, the police said that they could only investigate on the basis of referral, and the health professionals told us that they could not refer cases because their members were not fully trained and aware of the procedure. While agencies play pass the parcel of responsibility, young girls are being mutilated every hour of every day. This is deplorable. We wish to see more prosecutions brought and convictions secured. This barbaric crime which is committed daily on such a huge scale across the UK cannot continue to go unpunished.
4)Despite the Government’s assurances that there is no ambiguity in the law relating to female genital cosmetic surgery, our evidence demonstrates that the police, midwives and campaigners would all like to see greater clarity on this point. We cannot tell communities in Sierra Leone and Somalia to stop a practice which is freely permitted in Harley Street. We recommend that the Government amend the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 in order to make it very clear that female genital cosmetic surgery would be a criminal offence.
5)Doctors and health workers are in the front line in the fight against FGM. We do not believe that enough is being done by the Royal Colleges to encourage their members to report cases of FGM. Given the recent prosecution there may be an even greater reluctance to do so, however, we consider that it is imperative that the Royal College of GPs inform every single doctor about this practice and give them an indication of where adequate training can be provided.
6)We welcome the steps that the Government have taken to strengthen the law related to FGM. In particular, we welcome the provision in the Serious Crime Act to introduce mandatory reporting of FGM, by healthcare professionals, teachers and social care workers, to the police. This should help to bring about further prosecutions, sending a strong message both in the UK and overseas. However, it remains unclear what would happen in the event that a professional should fail to make a report. We recommend that the Government set out the sanctions that may apply when a professional has failed to meet their duty, which should range from compulsory training to a criminal offence for intentional or repeated failures.
7)We commend the work done by Jane Ellison MP in the Department of Health to spearhead their work against FGM. This has produced results and significant funding for a programme aimed at health professionals. We urge the Home Office to follow this example, and step up to the mark by providing funds for the tireless campaigners such as Leyla Hussein and Alimatu Dimonekene. These are the people who can reach out to communities and bring back information and intelligence to the police, so that investigations can take place and prosecutions be initiated.
8)The Government needs to be aware of the impact that its decisions have on FGM campaigners within practicing communities. We recommend the establishment of an advisory panel of FGM campaigners, which should be consulted before any major policy decisions are taken and also act as a sounding board to ensure that sufficient action is taken. The panel should advise on both the substance of policy decisions and on the way in which policies are to be communicated to the target communities, recognising that the final decision on these matters will rest with ministers.
13 September 2016