Female Genital Mutilation and British Law

justice scales

The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act (1985) made it illegal to perform FGM, or to assist FGM here in the UK; it was updated in 2003 to make it an offence for a UK national to carry out or assist with the performance of FGM on a British child overseas.

28 years after it was first criminalised, there is yet to be a successful prosecution in the UK – despite the fact that 20,000 British girls are thought to be at risk.


Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, QC, gave us this comment:

“Female genital mutilation on young girls or infants is child abuse and has been a specific criminal offence in England and Wales since 1985.

The CPS is committed to bringing prosecutions in this difficult area of the law to send a powerful message that those who commit this violent, invasive and life-changing crime that what they are doing is criminal and absolutely unacceptable.

Due to the nature of the offence and the fact that the victims are often young and vulnerable, and would often have to give evidence against a family member, there are particular obstacles to investigating and prosecuting FGM. But, although we are yet to prosecute a case, these obstacles are not insurmountable and we must do all we can to protect those who may be at risk.

I have personally chaired two roundtable discussions on the issue, to identify with the police and other agencies what steps we must take in order to bring prosecutions for FGM, and have also produced an Action Plan to ensure these steps are put in place.

I am greatly encouraged by recent progress by the police, acting on information that an offence might take place, in carrying out covert investigations to gather evidence for a prosecution that would avoid a victim having attend court. I now firmly believe that through improved reporting of evidence of FGM to inform this proactive investigative approach, we will soon see our first prosecution.

I am confident that as the CPS continues to build on the progress made so far it is now no longer a case of ‘if’ we will ever see an individual brought to justice for FGM, but when.”

Keir Starmer, QC, Director of Public Prosecutions
9th September 2013


More on current policies:

  • The International Development Committee report on Violence against Women and Girlsrecommends that the UK ‘puts aside political correctness’, and calls for statuatory agencies to work together with police to prevent girls from being harmed.
  • Under the Children’s Act (1989), local authorities are obliged to look into any referral which indicates that a child may be at risk of harm, and to act in order to protect that child.
  • If a local authority believes a child is being taken abroad in order for FGM to be performed, it can apply to the courts to intervene and prevent the child being taken.
  • The maximum sentence for carrying out FGM or helping it to take place is 14 years in prison.
  • Guidance from the CPS highlights the difficulties faced by police and the CPS when trying to bring FGM offences to court. It also details how the CPS aims to raise awareness and increase prosecutions for FGM.

– Mumsnet