Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is defined by the NHS as a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but there is no medical reason for this to be done. It is often referred to as female circumcision.
The NHS also reports that between April 2016 and March 2017, there were 9,179 attendances reported at NHS trusts and GP practices where FGM was identified or a procedure for FGM was undertaken. The NSPCC have also cited a statistic which states that there are an estimated 137,000 women and girls affected by FGM in England and Wales.
Although FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, the law relating to it is relatively new. The FGM Act 2003 makes it a criminal offence but that is not the only remedy available to a person who may be at risk of FGM. Help is available through the Civil law and the Family Court.
Here, Parveen Ahmed examines how important this help can be for potential victims.
I fear that I am at risk of FGM- what can I do?
The most important step is for you to secure your personal safety. Speak to a person who you can trust and consider reporting the matter to the Police. However you may not wish to do this. You may therefore wish to consider seeking legal advice, with a view to having an injunction put in place to prohibit the FGM procedure being carried out. This injunction is also known as a Female Genital Mutilation Prevention Order (FGMPO).
Here at Ison Harrison we have experienced Solicitors who can make an urgent same day application for a FGMPO.
The application can either be made by the person to be protected against FGM or another relevant person. Your Solicitor will advise you further about the person who they are consider to be ‘another relevant person’.
What Protection will the Order offer me?
As a starting point, the Order can stipulate that no arrangements are put into place (either in the UK or abroad) for FGM to be carried out. The
Court can give a number of important Directions forbidding FGM procedures from being instigated or taking place. This can include the passport of the person at risk being surrendered, so that they cannot be taken overseas for the purpose of FGM.
Just as each case is unique, so is each Order. Your solicitor will draft the order so that it reflects your situation and requirements fully.
My case is really urgent- is the Order right for me?
Orders can be granted on the same day as the application is made, and are an effective way of securing urgent legal protection.
What is the procedure?
Your solicitor will arrange to meet with you urgently, prepare the documents and submit them to a local allocated Family Court once you have approved the same. Your Solicitor will than attend with you on the same day and go before a District Judge who has experience of dealing with FGMPO’s.
When you see the Judge, it will be in their private chambers, not an open court, so is less daunting than you may expect.
I don’t want the other party to know I am applying
The initial application can be made without notifying the other person (also known as ‘without notice’.)
The address of the person applying for the Order does not need to be included.
What happens once the Order is made?
Your Solicitor will make arrangements for the person who you say is responsible for the FGM procedure being undertaken (known as the Respondent) to be served with a copy of the documents lodged with the Court and the FGMPO made by the Court.
The Court will set a date for a further hearing when the Respondent has an opportunity of attending and responding to the application for the FGMPO.
Special measures can be put in place so that you do not have to face the Respondent. Your Solicitor will discuss this with you and explain to you what happens from then on.
Your Solicitor can also signpost you to a number of agencies who can support you through this difficult period.
Is Legal Aid available?
Legal Aid is available (subject to the usual means and merits tests – your solicitor will advise you as to how this works) and there is no court fee for the application itself, or for any changes which are made to the Order after it is granted.
If you require advice or assistance in relation to the content of this article, please contact Parveen on 0113 284 5000. We handle all cases with absolute discretion and are happy to have an initial, confidential, discussion with you.