Thursday 27 July 2017

Female genital mutilation (FGM) protection orders introduced in Northern Ireland

Met Police are backing a new helpline for girls at risk of suffering female genital mutilation
Met Police are backing a new helpline for girls at risk of suffering female genital mutilation

Michael McHugh

Northern Ireland has introduced female genital mutilation (FGM) protection orders, Stormont ministers said.

They prevent travel by young girls who are thought to be at risk of being taken abroad to undergo the procedure.

Earlier this month Bedfordshire Police obtained an order under a law which came into force in England and Wales which stopped two girls from being transported to Africa.

Stormont justice minister David Ford said: "We know that these dreadful acts are often perpetrated abroad and during the school holidays when absences are less likely to be questioned.

"Sadly as many children in Northern Ireland will have looked forward to the summer holidays, others will have lived in fear of the summer break."

He said he was sending a clear message that FGM is a crime.

Read more: Female genital mutilation: 'At-risk' girls banned from travel by new police protection order

"It is a harmful practice that has no place in our society and is a violation of the rights of girls and women."

An order can be made to protect a girl against the commission of a genital mutilation offence or protect a girl who has already been cut.

Breaching it is a criminal offence that can carry a penalty of up to five years' imprisonment.

FGM sees the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

It is estimated that more than 20,000 girls under the age of 15 in the UK are at risk each year, yet very few cases are reported.

Signs that FGM may have taken place on a child include a lengthy absence from school, health problems including bladder and menstrual issues, complaints about pain between the legs, and behavioural changes.

A child may also talk about being taken away for a special ceremony, or say something has happened to them which they are not allowed to talk about.

Press Association

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