FGM and the Law

Published November 28, 2016   |    Updated October 26, 2017 1:35 pm

Children Act 1989

A local authority must exercise its duty under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 if it has reason to believe that a child has suffered, or is likely to experience FGM. Where a local authority considers that a girl might be at risk of FGM, an assessment under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 should be carried out. Under section 44 of the Children Act 1989 a person can apply to the court for Emergency Protection Orders (EPOs) to move a girl into safe accommodation if they believe she is at risk of significant harm. Although anyone can apply for an EPO, applications are usually made by children’s social care.

FGM is considered physical and emotional abuse. Alongside legislation criminalising FGM, professionals must also abide by other relevant laws to safeguard children from the practice, such as the Children Act 1989.

FGM Act: 2003

Under the 2003 Act, a person is guilty of an offence if they excise, infibulate or otherwise mutilate the whole or any part of a girl’s or woman’s labia majora, labia minora or clitoris for non-medical reasons. Any person found guilty of an offence under the FGM Act is liable to a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. The Act covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the nationality or residence status of the victim is irrelevant.

Children Act: 2004

Alongside legislation criminalising FGM, professionals must also abide by other relevant laws to safeguard children from the practice, such as the Children Act 2004. Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 creates a duty for the key agencies who work with children to put in place arrangements to make sure that they take account of the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children when doing their jobs.

Serious Crime Act: 2015

Section 70(1) of the Serious Crime Act 2015 (“the 2015 Act”) amends section 4 of the FGM Act 2003 to extend the extra-territorial powers of the law to further protect victims of FGM. It also introduces victim anonymity to victims of FGM similar to that of victims of sexual exploitation. The Serious Crime Act introduces civil measures to protect girls or women who have suffered or are believed to be at risk from FGM. It also introduces a mandatory reporting duty to report known cases of FGM that applies to all regulated professionals.