Articles on Shifting Sands
Clitoral pricking being investigated as FGM
Scotland Yard is investigating the alleged genital mutilation (FGM) of a baby girl from London.
The Evening Standard reported that the four year old girl, a Briton of Malaysian descent, may have been taken abroad and subjected to “type 4” FGM when a few months old.
The procedure known as female circumcision in Malaysia, involves pricking the clitoris. Although considered legal by the family, it is a criminal offence in Britain. Their daughter’s injury was reported to police by medical staff.
The Standard reminds us that the case has surfaced at the start of the so called “cutting season”, when girls are believed to have traditionally been taken abroad for FGM in their parents’ home countries. It has prompted ‘renewed fears that some families are breaking British law out of ignorance. Malaysia and Somalia are among the countries in which “type 4” practices illegal here are common and not regarded as FGM.’
Detective Chief Superintendent Keith Niven, head of Scotland Yard’s rape and child abuse command, didn’t comment on the investigation, but warned that ignorance of the law was not an excuse.
“If anybody thinks it might be legal overseas and they can go there to get it done and they will not be prosecuted here, they are wrong. If they have a footprint in this country they are vulnerable to the law. We will seek to prosecute whatever type of FGM it is.”
He also said that police still met parents at airports unaware of the law, and added: “There is some confusion, despite all the publicity. We are saying it’s not ok. It’s a strong message we want to get out because now is the season.”
The clitoral pricking of the girl is thought to have occurred several years ago in Malaysia, although the child is still under five. A source said her family had been shocked to learn they might face police action, as they are “very law-abiding”.
Police investigated a similar incident involving the cutting of another London baby of Malaysian origin, but there was no prosecution.
First published in the Evening Standard 31 July 2015. This piece was revised 5 May 2017 to include an update.
The case was dropped due to insufficient evidence in January 2016. Announcing the decision, a CPS spokesman said: “This case has been considered in line with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and we have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prove that FGM had been committed or encouraged by these suspects. This is due to a lack of medical evidence of anything that could fall within the definition of FGM.”
About the Author - Bríd Hehir
Bríd is a retired health professional. She started her career as a nurse and midwife in Africa where she worked for almost four years. She encountered FGM/C in Ethiopia. She then moved to London where she worked in the National Health Service as a midwife, community nurse, health visitor, reproductive and sexual health nurse and manager over a period of 30 years. She did not encounter FGM/C during that time despite working with immigrant communities who are reported to practice it still. She is puzzled by the current reported prevalence of the practice, the official response and associated activism. And is worried that they might cause more harm than good.