Doctors and nurses who fail to report that girls in their care have suffered female genital mutilation (FGM) should be prosecuted in an effort to tackle the scandal of “this horrific abuse”, MPs say in a report published today.
They were scathing about the failure of police, prosecutors and successive governments to bring perpetrators to justice and demanded urgent steps to prevent girls from undergoing the agonising procedure.
The Commons home affairs select committee, which denounced FGM as an “extreme form of child abuse”, called for a dramatic increase in prosecutions.
It said it should be made a criminal offence for health professionals to ignore evidence of the practice if there was not a significant rise in reports of FGM within 12 months.
Its chairman, Keith Vaz, said: “It is unacceptable that those with clear access to evidence of these crimes do nothing to help those at risk.”
He added: “FGM is an ongoing national scandal which is likely to have resulted in the preventable mutilation of thousands of girls to whom the state owed a duty of care.”
About 170,000 women and girls living in Britain are believed to have suffered FGM and 65,000 girls aged 13 and under are thought to be at risk of being cut.
Although it has been illegal since 1985, the first prosecution only occurred this year – just before the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders appeared before the committee.
The MPs partly blamed a “misplaced concern for cultural sensitivities over the rights of the child” for the failure of the authorities to deal with a practice associated with Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and other African states.
They said: “A number of successful prosecutions would send a clear message to those involved that FGM is taken with the utmost seriousness in the UK and will be punished accordingly.”
They said victims should be allowed to give anonymous evidence and backed the creation of “FGM protection orders” similar to those which exist for forced marriage.
Norman Baker, the Crime Prevention Minister, said: “The Coalition Government is already driving a step-change to end this extremely harmful and misguided practice, which has a lifelong impact on survivors’ physical and mental health.
“Earlier this year ministers from across government signed a declaration to demonstrate their commitment to end this terrible form of abuse. We are working with religious and community leaders to forge a commitment to condemn FGM.”