Family law organisation Resolution has published a guide for lawyers who suspect they are dealing with victims of female genital mutilation (FGM).
The ‘toolkit’ was published at the group’s annual conference in Gateshead this week. The aim is to encourage family lawyers to raise the issue with their clients. The toolkit sets out a “one chance rule” which states that potential victims may only have one opportunity to ask for help so it is important for lawyers to get it right first time.
Speaking at the conference, newly elected Resolution chair Nigel Shepherd said that family lawyers “can play an important role in supporting victims of FGM” and claimed that the new toolkit would be “a valuable addition” to the resources at their disposal in sensitive cases.
FGM has been a criminal offence in Britain since 1985 yet there are still up to 23,000 girls in England and Wales under 15 years old at risk, according to official estimates. There could also be as many as 60,000 women in the UK living with the consequences of the practice. FGM is usually organised by the girl’s family and is performed for a number of reasons including the belief that it will preserve the family’s honour, to continue a tradition or to ensure the girl does not have pre-marital sex.
The Home Office has claimed that girls in certain African communities in the UK are at the greatest risk of FGM. However, the practice also occurs in groups from such places like Yemen, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Last year, protection orders for victims of FGM were introduced into UK law. These allow the courts to put measures in place to keep girls safe if there is a reason to believe they could be subjected to the practice. Shortly after their introduction, the High Court made such an order to protect three sisters whose father had allegedly been pushing for them all to undergo FGM either in the UK or in Nigeria.
Read the full Resolution toolkit here.