Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders

On Friday 17th July 2015 section 73 Serious Crime Act 2015 was enacted and FGM Protection Orders (FGMPO) came into force.

FGM is a criminal offence in the UK. It is a form of child abuse and violence against women and girls, involving procedures which include the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice is extremely painful and has serious health consequences, both at the time the mutilation is carried out, and later in life.

The age at which girls undergo FGM varies enormously. The procedure may be carried out when the girl is new born, during childhood or adolescence, just before marriage or during the first pregnancy. However, the majority of cases are thought to take place between the ages of 5 and 8 years.

What is a FGM Protection Order and who can apply?

An FGM Protection Order is a civil measure which offers the means of protecting victims or potential victims from FGM under the civil law.

Applications for an FGM Order can be made by:

  • the girl or women to be protected (in person or with legal representation);
  • a Relevant Third Party (RTP) (a person or organisation appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Currently, only local authorities have been classified as relevant Third parties)
  • any other person with the permission of the court (for example, this could be the police, a voluntary sector support service, a healthcare professional, a teacher, a friend or family member).

These orders will operate in a similar way to Forced Marriage Protection Orders and they are to help safeguard girls who may be at risk of FGM or who are already victims.

The first FGMPO has already been obtained by Bedfordshire Police; for two girls who were thought to be at risk of being taken abroad to undergo the procedure.

Examples of the types of orders the court might make are:

  • to protect a victim or potential victim from FGM from being taken abroad;
  • to order the surrender of passports or any other travel documents, including the passport/travel documentation of the girl to be protected;
  • to prohibit specified persons from entering into any arrangements in the UK or abroad for FGM to be performed on the person to be protected;
  • to include terms in the order which relate to the conduct of the respondent(s) both inside and outside of England and Wales; and
  • to include terms which cover respondents who are, or may become involved in other respects (or instead of the original respondents) and who may commit or attempt to commit FGM against a girl

Breach of a FGMPO is a criminal offence carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison. As an alternative to a criminal prosecution, a breach could be dealt with in the family court as a contempt of court, which carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.

Further information and guidance on FGM Protection Order’s is available via the GSCB website including; ‘A guide to the court process’ and a ‘relevant third party’; http://www.gscb.org.uk/article/114605/Resources-for-professionals