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FGM: changes to UK approach

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UK government, new guidelines, FGMThe UK government has issued new guidance on female genital mutilation.

It is a multi-agency guidance on female genital mutilation (FGM) and should be read and followed by all persons and bodies in England and Wales who are under statutory duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and vulnerable adults.

It replaces female genital mutilation: guidelines to protect children and women (2014).

This guidance should be considered together with other relevant safeguarding guidance, including (but not limited to): Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015) in England and Safeguarding Children: Working Together under the Children Act 2004 (2007) in Wales

It is not intended to replace wider safeguarding guidance, but to provide additional advice on FGM.

The information in this guidance, the government points out, may also be relevant to bodies working with women and girls at risk of FGM or dealing with its consequences.

The guidance has three key functions:

To provide information on FGM, including on the law on FGM in England and Wales. This is set out in the main body of this document;

To provide strategic guidance on FGM for chief executives, directors and senior managers of persons and bodies mentioned above, or of third parties exercising public protection functions on behalf of those persons or bodies. This guidance is set out in the main body of this document; and

To provide advice and support to front-line professionals who have responsibilities to safeguard and support women and girls affected by FGM, in particular to assist them in: identifying when a girl or young woman may be at risk of FGM and responding appropriately; identifying when a girl or woman has had FGM and responding appropriately; and implementing measures that can prevent and ultimately help end the practice of FGM.

FGM is illegal in the UK.

For the purpose of the criminal law in England and Wales, FGM is mutilation of the labia majora, labia minor or clitoris.

FGM is an unacceptable practice for which there is no justification.

It is child abuse and a form of violence against women and girls.

This new guidance encourages agencies to cooperate and work together to protect and support those at risk of, or who have undergone, FGM.

As amended by the Serious Crime Act 2015, the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 now includes:

An offence of failing to protect a girl from the risk of FGM;

Extra-territorial jurisdiction over offences of FGM committed abroad by UK nationals and those habitually (as well as permanently) resident in the UK;

Lifelong anonymity for victims of FGM;

FGM Protection Orders which can be used to protect girls at risk; and

A mandatory reporting duty which requires specified professionals to report known cases of FGM in under 18s to the police.

The prevalence of FGM in England and Wales is difficult to estimate because of the hidden nature of the crime.

However, a 2015 study estimated that approximately 60,000 girls aged 0-14 were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone FGM(see Annex B for risk factors); and approximately 103,000 women aged 15-49 and approximately 24,000 women aged 50 and over who have migrated to England and Wales are living with the consequences of FGM.

In addition, approximately 10,000 girls aged under 15 who have migrated to England and Wales are likely to have undergone FGM.

Further information about FGM, including the motives for and consequences of it, can be found in Annex A.

To read the whole text, click here.

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