The Family Division of the High Court has put three sisters under protection from female genital mutilation (FGM).
All three of the girls, aged six, nine and 12, were made subjects of a protection order designed specifically to prevent the practice. Such orders were first introduced into UK law earlier this month, and this case is one of the earliest examples of their use.
The order was made after the girls’ mother submitted evidence that their father had been pressurising her to allow the procedure to take place. She claimed he wanted it to be performed either in the UK or in the parents’ home country of Nigeria, despite FGM being illegal in both nations.
She described her own experience of the practice in a written statement, and claimed she had “never recovered” from it. The mother added that she still experienced pain stemming from FGM even though it took place ten years ago.
A barrister who represented the mother told the High Court that even though the father was currently in Nigeria, he could “instruct someone else to act” on his behalf. The lawyer added that there was a real risk that the girls “may go missing” and be subjected to the procedure.
Mr Justice Holman called FGM a “terrible scourge” before he made the order. Although he added that the father would be permitted to challenge the ruling at a later date.
The Nigerian government outlawed FGM earlier this year. According to a report in The Guardian, as many as a quarter of women in the West African nation have been cut in such a way. In Britain, a 2014 study estimates that it affects around 137,000 women. The procedure can be fatal or cause a number of other problems, such as “repeated infections, as well as pain urinating, during sex and in childbirth”.
Photo by Sigmar via Flickr