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Solicitor warns of ‘marked increase’ in FGM cases

Recognising the practice will help eradicate it, says Leicester lawyer ahead of the UN's global zero tolerance day

3 February 2016

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A family law solicitor has praised the introduction of a new law giving female genital mutilation (FGM) victims more protection.

Terri Harman of Leicester's Nelsons Solicitors is an expert in FGM cases and is raising awareness of the practice ahead of the UN's global zero tolerance day on 6 February.

According to Harman, around 170,000 women and girls are living with FGM in the UK while 65,000 girls aged 13 and under are at risk.

Over 2,600 women and girls were treated for FGM between September 2014 and March 2015, and more than 200 related cases were investigated by the police over the past five years.

While FGM is practised most frequently in Africa and parts of the Middle and Far East, Harman says the phenomenon is growing in developing countries, particularly among immigrant and refugee communities.

'It is hard for many to imagine that this practice continues in the Western world, often without the patient's consent, let alone without any anaesthetic or aftercare,' she said.

The Serious Crime Act 2015 amended the The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 to include FGM Protection Orders, which came into force on 17 July 2015. Mandatory reporting, which  places a duty on health and social care professionals and teachers to report known cases of FGM in under-18s to the police, came into force on 31 October 2015. 

Having dealt with numerous complex family situations of this kind across the UK in recent years, the associate has welcomed the change.

'This is very good news, as it means more is being done to prevent this abhorrent practice and to support those who may be at risk of it,' said Harman.

'As a result of the new law, I have seen a marked increase in the number of FGM cases I am dealing with.'

A maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment can be given to anyone found guilty of committing FGM in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland and to a UK national or UK resident who commits the offence abroad.

Harman added: 'FGM is an uncomfortable subject, but by recognising that the practice takes place, we can work towards eradicating it.'

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