Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation Chapter 6: Legislation and Governance

The UK Parliament has been sporadically concerned with female genital mutilation for almost a century, and British statute goes back three or more decades; but as of early 2015 there still has not been a single successful prosecution concerning any aspect of FGM. The circumstances which have produced this situation are complex, and, as the 2014 Report of the UK Parliament Home Affairs Select Committee1 (the ‘Vaz Report’) demonstrates, responsibility for upholding the law has frequently seemed to be regarded as someone else’s to resolve, whenever any public service professional is asked.

Thus we find ourselves in a position where the UK Parliament has pondered FGM for generations, but still some issues around legislation are unresolved. Frustration at the snail’s pace of effective legal positions has been shared by many, from way back in time – amongst those impatient with progress being Sophie Ramsay, great-great-niece of Katherine Atholl who co-chaired the first parliamentary committee, in 1929.

And the global legal community has also been overtly concerned about FGM since at least the end of the Second World War. The illegality of female genital mutilation is grounded in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in formal international law and in the explicit legislation of many nations around the world, including the United Kingdom.

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