30th October 2003 is a joyful day for all those who have campaigned against FGM. FORWARD is delighted to report that that the FGM Act 2003 has been passed and is due for implementation early next year. It is an updated version of the previous Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985. The major difference is the introduction of the concept of extraterritoriality. This means that any girls who are taken abroad to undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are now protected by UK law. Those responsible for the girls, parents/guardians or carers who are British nationals or UK permanent residents are now liable for prosecution if they subject anyone to FGM – this even extends to countries where the practice of FGM is still legal. The penalty for aiding, abetting and counselling to procure FGM has also been increased, from five to fourteen years imprisonment, there is also the risk of a fine or both imprisonment and a fine.
FORWARD has worked hard to advocate for this change in the law and we recognise that this will increase the level of protection for young girls from FGM practising communities, who are at risk of being taken away from the UK for the sole purposes of FGM.
This is a welcome step in the right direction, however FORWARD also recognises the importance of empowering communities to protect their girls from FGM. This law is intended to work in parallel with and strengthening community prevention initiatives. It is very important that practising communities become more active and accountable for their actions. Therefore, the community protection of girls is critical to a successful implementation and therefore overall effectiveness of this new law.
Read about David Blunkett’s visit to FORWARD to launch the new legislation here.