Monday, 10 June 2013

Violence against Women: Strategy and Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is recognised internationally as a clear form of violence against women and girls. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is not necessarily an offence committed by men on women, as women also commit the offence. However, it is regularly carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. However it is also performed to control the sexuality of women. Furthermore some of the people who have gone through FGM tend to be also psychologically affected and therefore easy for men to control. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

FGM prosecutions should therefore be addressed within an overall framework of violence against women and an overall human rights framework. Where appropriate, prosecutors should make links with other topics such as domestic violence, rape and sexual offences, honour crimes, forced marriage, child abuse, crimes against the older person, pornography, human trafficking and prostitution.

Prosecutors should recognise the diversity of victims. People tend to paint the victims with one brush. What might work in one case would not be applicable to all victims. Victims' experiences of FGM are undoubtedly affected by identities distinct from gender, like their ethnicity, age, sexuality, disability, immigration status and religion or belief as well as country of origin. Each victim's individual experiences of violence will be different, and some victims may encounter additional barriers to accessing justice. For example, a young woman forced into agreeing to these procedures may find it difficult to report domestic violence because she fears she will not be taken seriously as a result of her age. The safety and needs of each victim should be assessed on an individual basis.

Charging in Female Genital Mutilation cases

The prosecution of FGM cases should be considered serious. This practice causes serious harm and, as a result, the FGM Act increased the maximum penalty from 5 to 14 years' imprisonment but there have not been any prosecutions.

The Female Genital Mutilation Act (the Act) makes it clear that it is an offence for anyone (regardless of their nationality and residence status) to perform FGM in the UK, or to assist a girl to perform FGM on herself in the UK. Provided that the mutilation takes place in the UK, the nationality or residence status of the victim is irrelevant. But surely how about those people with UK residence status, who take their children back to the countries of origin in summer and have them cut? And if someone does cut girls in the UK  for example in long summer school holidays, how is it going to come out? In the diaspora, people tend to protect each other to avoid being isolated and even victimised, therefore there is need to offer support and shelter to those who speak out. There is need to spread the message that those who testify will not be alone and can even get protected.

However, there may be circumstances when the nationality of residence of the victim is relevant and it may be difficult to apply the Act. Prosecutors should remember that in cases where it is not possible to apply the Act, they should consider the full ambit of charging. Assault, conspiracy and child cruelty are just some example of charges that can arise in these circumstances.

Prosecutors should be aware, when dealing with a case of FGM that the victim may not just be a victim of FGM. The victim may also have been subjected to rape and other sexual offences, or may have been subject to a forced marriage. The victim may be under 18, and may also be a victim of ill treatment.

If there is no direct evidence specifically for FGM, then surely, perpetrators of this horrific crime should be charged on other crimes like Child cruelty, etc

Please prosecutors do not let these girls down!

Have a look at ‘A lost Youth’-, a book on Female Genital Mutilation which can be found on Amazon.

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