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The UK Can Learn From France On Female Genital Mutilation Prosecutions

November 28, 2012

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 just finished reading your piece on FGM and the CPS, plus your article in the Huffington Post,  and I wanted to thank you for being angry.

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.


Linda Weil-Curiel

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 probably babies and girls in Britain every day undergo, or are at serious risk of, female genital mutilation – which means a significant number of perpetrators or abettors – e.g. parents etc – per annum.  There may be some overlap because of multiple offences by the same people, but in the absence of a more evidenced figure, we can surely reach a number 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 suspected British FGM crimes annually have actually been committed?

This post was also published on the A Better People website on 30 November 2012.

~ ~ ~

Postscript [5 December 2012]:

Karl Turner MP and I met with Linda Weil-Cureil in Westminster today.

12.12.05 Karl Turner, Linda Weil-Tureil [FGM] Westminster 03a

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.

~ ~ ~

Subsequent developments:

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.

For details of this FGM debate please see (text and references) They Work For You and / or (video) Parliament TV.

Further information:

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.

Our Twitter account is @NoFGM1  and our tag is #NoFGM.

Our Facebook page is #NoFGM – a crime against humanity  and our website is  NoFGM (UK).

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.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Marilyn Wathington permalink
    November 30, 2012 11:31

    I am unaware if FGM is a criminal offense here in the States. However, I wonder if a mass media campaign about the health risks, pain and often resultant death would stem the tide. I understand that those who practice this form of “Control” have a cultural interest in its maintenance. Maybe education using all media outlets in foreign languages would help. What if children never visited a doctor? What if children are home schooled? If children never enter arenas where parents or caregivers are given information, they are at risk. There must be a way of getting information to the people who practice FGM. Then again, maybe I am naive enough to believe that if people knew better they would do better.

    • November 30, 2012 14:09

      Thank you Marilyn.

      My info (but I am a Brit…) is that US legislation on FGM varies by State, although there are moves to make it all clearer everywhere. There have I know been a few instances of prosecution, but probably not many as yet?

      Some of course say, with reason, that any non-medically-required invasive procedure on a minor of either sex is assault, but then the argument about what is ‘not required’ can, it has been argued (not by me), muddy the waters for boys, though not for girls.

      You will find quite a lot of information about FGM around the world in the FGM Listing which I also mention above.

  2. November 30, 2012 17:26

    Here’s some info on the position in the USA (not nice reading, but it explains a bit more):

  3. Vera Lustig permalink
    November 30, 2012 17:44

    Dear Hilary,

    Thanks for that email. I’m glad you’re in contact with Linda Weil-Curiel. I interviewed her in Paris in May. She’s achieved so much. I was debriefed by Yeliz Osman in the Policing / VAWG department of the Mayor’s Office. Linda’s coming to London next week for a conference.

    I don’t think we’ll get anywhere till we consider genital examinations both as a preventive measure and for the gathering of evidence. More and more people in the UK are saying this, aren’t they? The activists I met in Paris in May just raised their eyes heavenwards when I said that it would be difficult to even suggest this, in our prudish culture. But we have to.

    Anyway, thanks for everything you’re doing.
    Kind regards


    • January 22, 2013 12:19

      Agree 100% Vera, that examination of children should be common practice for many reasons, as long as (normally) the parent/s are in attendance and informed.

      The truth is, examination already in happens when the children are babies and the Health Visitor does their checks. As you say, it needs to carry on – at least until school age, after which teachers need to be aware and on the look-out as a matter of course.

      Can’t imagine why prudish politicians have to be involved at all; the sensible ones would say, leave these matters of good practice to the health and early years / education professionals… but ask lots of questions if parents seem reluctant, and take action quickly if there’s real resistance to inspecting any child.

  4. June 24, 2013 09:53

    Breakthrough! >> *NSPCC FGM HELPLINE* set up today, 24 June 2013

    Call: 0800 028 3550

    Female Genital Mutilation is child abuse. If you are worried a child may be a victim, or at risk of female genital mutilation don’t wait until you’re certain, contact the NSPCC immediately.

    In the UK, people from the following communities are most at risk of FGM:
    Bohra-Dawoodi (Pakistani and Indian)
    Sierra Leonean

    Don’t let socio-cultural pressures get in the way of protecting children.

    FGM is a harmful “cultural” practice, but it is not a religious one. Carrying out this practice has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985. However, there has not been a single prosecution to date.

    As with other forms of child abuse, these crimes often remain hidden and unreported, as children are too ashamed or afraid to speak out.

    You can call the NSPCC helpline on 0800 028 3550 and send emails to, text on 88858 or use the NSPCC Helpline online form:

    More information on female genital mutilation here:

  5. February 11, 2014 20:28

    [Note from Hilary: I have decided to publish this comment in the interests of openness and further discussion. I do not however necessarily endorse commentary from others which I publish.]

    French society has a tendency to accept perversion, and accuse conservative cultures as prudish. What does one expect from a country that accepted and was ready to vote for DSK? They see no problem about forcefully examining the genitals of thousands of African girls-this is how sick they are. They justify their attitude and actions based on an irrationally and arrogant claim that they know best what is good for African girls more than the parents who love them do . They justify their arrogant attitude by irrationally claiming that FGC is common in some immigrant communities in the West- without any REAL evidence besides hersay.

    When will westerners ever get it from past history that their state interventions in the lives of children all for the sake of some “noble” cause has been disastrous for the children-such as religious boarding schools for native americans or orphanages for example. Now you want to criminalize and “shame” poor and culturally disoriented immigrants parents, and you think that is the best way to help the children that love them and that they love? You think the best way to help the children is by humiliating their parents? What the hell?!

    How hypercritical it is that European and American families openly practice FGM on their boys.

    How is it the French can get away with this forceful genital examination? FGE? They must be picking on the poorest and weakest immigrant groups. Why don’t we see you criminalizing and shaming Jewish parents in France for male FGC? I can tell you that Africans in Britain and the US will not be intimidated to have any forceful genital examination of their children because THAT is certainly sexual abuse. Pedophilia under cover of social activism will to be tolerated in Britain and America, so you social workers get this idea out of your sick heads.

    As for the French campaign do not fool and congratulate yourselves into thinking the French social workers ended FGC-as if they had examined every girl before and after their so called campaign to come to that conclusion. FGC was never common among children born in the West, and is not even that common in urban areas of the the countries the parents coming from. All that is needed to end this dying ritual completely is patiently changing peoples minds by education and community outreach by community leaders, NOT criminalization and shaming.

    I am glad I live in the US where patient right and children’s rights are respected, and are not considered mutually exclusive.

    The arrogance of the French is disgusting.

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