Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders
Lewis Chatten of the Family department considers the law of Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders (FGMPOs) following the first ever conviction for FGM in England and Wales in February 2019.
Female genital mutilation can be defined as “all the procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been illegal in England and Wales since 1985 but professionals have found it difficult to secure a conviction. In February 2019, a mother was found guilty of such an offence against her then three year old daughter.
FGMPOs are protective injunctions that offer a legal means to protect and safeguard those who have already been subjected to mutilation and those who are at risk of being mutilated in the future.
Before deciding to make a FGMPO, the Court will have regard to all the circumstances, including the need to secure the health, safety and well-being of the girl to be protected. This order may contain such prohibitions, restrictions or requirements, or such other terms as the Court considers appropriate for the purposes of the protecting the girl. An example of a requirement that the Court could impose could be the surrendering of a passport. The power of the Court in this circumstance is very wide; the Court can make any Order it thinks necessary to offer protection against FGM.
The terms of an FGMPO can relate to conduct outside England and Wales as well as (or instead of) conduct within England and Wales therefore it will not matter that the mutilation took place outside of England and Wales. The terms can also apply to respondents who are or may become involved, even if they are not necessarily the person who commits or attempts to commit the mutilation. Such involvement in this sense could be aiding, abetting, encouraging or assisting a mutilation against a girl.
An application for a FGMPO can be made by the girl who is to be protected by the Order or by the Local Authority. Any other person, such as the police, a teacher, or a family member may also make an application however the Court’s permission will be required. Before granting this permission, the Court will have regard to all the circumstances including this person’s connection with the girl to be protected and their knowledge of the circumstances of the girl.
Once a FMGPO has been made, the breach of this order will constitute a criminal offence and may lead to enforcement proceedings in the Family Court or, if reported to the police, criminal proceedings. This order may last for a specified amount of time or until it is varied/discharged.
Legal Aid is available for these proceedings upon meeting the criteria as set out by the Legal Aid Agency. Please visit our “Legal Aid & Fees” page for more information.
If you or someone you know is at risk of or has been the victim of female genital mutilation or should you be served as a respondent to such an application, please contact our family department.