The UK Can Learn From France On Female Genital Mutilation Prosecutions
My previous post on the inertia of the UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) over the years concerning female genital mutilation (FGM), and their new Action Plan published this week, has resulted in our being sent some extremely helpful information.
Linda Weil-Curiel, the steadfast lawyer who has been securing convictions again FGM perpetrators in France, has written to me and has kindly agreed I may quote her as follows:
I am the French lawyer who has been on the prosecution side in the interest of the victims, on behalf of an association ( CAMS: Commission pour l’abolition des mutilations sexuelles).
I forced the prosecutors to consider that female sexual mutilation was high on the scale of crime and that the perpetrators and abettors were to be tried before the highest criminal court (cour d’assises).
Our legal system is very different it seems, but somehow I am troubled by the excuse that ‘evidence’ is not easy to gather: in France the evidence is the mutilation itself, medically established.
The perpetrator is not easily identified because families will protect her, but there is hardly any question about the parents’ accountability: it is they who decide that it is time for the mutilation, it is they who bring the child to the knife (or the razor blade) and they who pay the fees, and the expenses when the child is sent abroad.
Thanks to highly publicised trials and prevention measures, the number of mutilations has greatly decreased.
I am not saying that there are no more children taken abroad to be mutilated but it is a fact that prosecutions followed by a trial with a penalty outcome are a powerful deterrent.
The detection of FSM/FGM is usually done through medical examination.
It is a duty for doctors, or others such as social services, to report any mutilation or abuse committed on a minor.
In the last case for which I was in court, the first mutilation in that family was discovered when one of the girls had appendicitis. The surgeon discovered that the child was mutilated and the hospital reported to the prosecutor. Therefore a criminal case was opened.
This lead systematically to the medical examination of the sisters in order to detect if they too are mutilated.
In short this how we proceed.
Added to this, in prevention, in the medical centres dedicated to mother and child, doctors are invited to check the girls’ genitals (up to six years) as a routine, as is done for the little boys. An explanation must be given to the family (mother usually) that it is important to keep the child intact, that the doctor will see to it, and if a mutilation is observed the he must report it to the police.
About the prison penalties for the parents: would one wonder if it should apply to white parents mutilating their girls? Whatever the colour of skin, a victim is a victim.
Moreover, families are well aware that FSM is illegal and they know the consequences if they do it.
I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your concern.
Ms Weil-Curiel’s statement surely could not make it more clear, as some of us have continued to insist, that FGM is criminal child abuse for which those responsible must be brought to account.
We must never forget that averaged over the year some 50 babies and girls in Britain every day undergo, or at serious risk of, female genital mutilation. By my reckoning that suggests possibly 100,000 perpetrators or abettors – e.g. parents &c - per annum. There may be some overlap because of multiple offences by the same people, but in the absence of a more evidenced figure, this number has to be somewhere near the mark
As I asked in my submission to the CPS: How hard can it be to obtain water-tight evidence that at least a few of the roughly 24,000 suspected FGM British crime annually have actually been committed?
This post was also published on the A Better People website on 30 November 2012.
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Postscript [5 December 2012]:
Linda shared her experience of how she has pursued prosecutions in France against people (subsequently found) guilty of FGM crimes, giving us considerable food for thought about how the British legal system might be more effective.
There is a lot to be done and I was very glad to be able to introduce Linda and Karl, both of them lawyers and formidable campaigners intent on protecting children from this grim form of abuse.
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Karl Turner MP secured a debate in Westminster Hall on 8 January 2013 to take forward his concerns about FGM, and to share what we learned from the meeting with Linda Weil-Curiel.
There is an e-petition for everyone, everywhere to sign: UK Government: Enforce the UK law which forbids FGM (Female Genital so-called ‘Cutting’).
The #NoFGM Daily News carries reports of all items shared on Twitter that day about FGM, bringing many organisations and developments into focus.
You can also find out more here: #NoFGM: A Listing For Action & References On Female Genital Mutilation
#NoFGM also had an HM Government e-petition, No. 35313 (now closed), to STOP Female Genital Mutilation (FGM / ‘cutting’) in Britain which UK citizens and residents are asked to sign.