Hopefully, the BBC's reports will bring a very serious issue into the spotlight encouraging action.
Yesterday evening, the BBC’s Newsnight showed the first of its two-part report on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); a topic that desperately needed the attention of the mainstream media to trigger action from the government.
The programme revealed that no one has been prosecuted in the UK since the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act was introduced in 1985.
Yet there has been suggestions that migrants wanting to carry out FGM choose to come to ‘tolerant’ UK over other European countries.
In France, for example, more than 100 people have been convicted there, serving sentences of up to 13 years.
The Independent reports:
Young girls are being sent to Britain for the abusive removal of their genitalia by migrant families across Europe because the country is regarded as a soft touch on the ritual, an investigation has found.
The UK has a reputation for being so tolerant of female genital mutilation (FGM) that parents from some African communities in mainland Europe are bringing their daughters to Britain solely to have them cut – “sometimes during group sessions” – BBC’s Newsnight discovered.
While the penalties are tough in France – more than 100 people have been convicted there, serving prison sentences of up to 13 years – Britain has never carried out a single prosecution for FGM.
That is despite its being made illegal in the 1980s and 82 cases being reported to the Metropolitan Police in recent years, according to Commander Simon Foy, who ru ns the Child Abuse Investigation Command. He said he was “not necessarily sure that the availability of a stronger sense of prosecution will change it [the incidence of FGM] for the better”.
Female Genital Mutilation comprises of full or partial removal of external female genitalia. Some consider the procedure necessary for religious or customary reasons, or sometimes for social acceptance within communities.
Isabelle Gillet-Faye, director of the French protest group GAMS, blamed the UK’s tolerance of migrant traditions:
“In England you are very respectful about traditions of every community who live in your country…
“In our country it is totally different, because when migrants arrive in France they have a necessity to integrate with our law and traditions. We will not tolerate the mutilation of children.”
Forward, a UK campaign against FGM, said (pdf):
“Despite the legislation and the efforts of FORWARD and other NGOs to raise awareness of FGM, evidence suggests that the practice still occurs in the UK.
A Department of Health funded survey, assessing the situation of FGM among local socialservices in the UK, found that FGM is more widespread than previously believed.
“Out of sixty-five local social service departments in the survey, ten reported casework interventions because of suspected FGM cases and a further eighteen were concerned aboutcommunities practising FGM.”
The real hindrance of efforts to tackle FGM is the uncomfortable nature of the details of the crime. The BBC should be applauded for dedicating time on its popular news segment to a crime so horrific it has almost become taboo.
Even though the European parliament voted unanimously last month for all member states to take more action to prevent FGM, the UK government needs to do more.
Hopefully, the BBC’s reports will bring a very serious issue into the spotlight encouraging action.