FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985. Laws passed then made it an offence to carry out FGM, but this legislation had to be updated for the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. With increasing numbers of girls being taken abroad to be cut, it became apparent that more needed to be done. The spike in cases that occurred around the summer holidays has come to be known as ‘cutting season’.
The updated laws made it an offence to take a girl abroad to undergo FGM, for a UK national or resident to carry out the procedure abroad or help someone not a UK national to carry out the procedure abroad. The maximum penalty is 14 years in prison.
Laws are in place to stop FGM, but legislation is only part of the solution. To make real change and end ‘cutting season’ we also have to work together to protect girls who are in danger.
How can you help stop FGM and ‘Cutting Season’?
Here are three things you can do to help bring ‘cutting season’ and FGM to an end.
Although more people are aware of FGM the majority are not aware of ‘cutting season’ and just how many girls are at risk. An important step in the fight to stop FGM is simply raising awareness of the problem. You can do this by sharing this article on Facebook and Twitter and adding your voice to the conversation using #EndFGM.
Groups that practise FGM do so for a complex set of reasons and the procedure has existed for many generations. Just shouting that it’s wrong isn’t going to change their minds. We need to reach out to and work in partnership with resident communities in the UK if we want to stop FGM. The Government has been issuing grants to help, as part of their anti-FGM initiative.
If you live in an area where this is happening see if you can volunteer to help. Even if you don’t it’s worth finding out how services and individuals can engage with communities. Voicing concerns is important, but it’s practical action that will have the most effect.
Girls who might be taken abroad for ‘cutting season’ will be young, possibly not fully aware of why they are going, and if they are they may not feel able to speak out. It’s important to watch for warning signs if you know anyone who you believe is at risk. Potential warning signs could be:
- A planned summer trip to a country known to practise FGM.
- A girl may talk about visiting relatives for a special ceremony or event.
- A holiday that includes additional time away before, or at the end of, the summer holidays, encroaching on school time.
If you suspect someone is in danger you can contact the NSPCC FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550. The line is free to call, anonymous and open 24/7. You should also call if you believe a girl has already undergone FGM.
To find out more about FGM and how it might affect you or young people in the UK that may be at risk, download the Petal web app.
‘Cutting season’ is a threat to potentially thousands of girls in the UK.