Home Office Orals

First day back – Home Office orals (done) and Adjournment Debate after votes at 10pm (still to come).

Two questions came my way: one on wheel clamping and the other on what resources we are putting into enforcing the law against female genital mutilation (fmg).

The first on clamping – as in my blog posts really – just when would it happen and what about the clampers. Given how much I’ve written about this already – there was nothing new that came up.

On seeing the question on female genital mutilation and seeing that it was the same question that Ann Clwyd MP had asked a previous Labour minister some years earlier  – I could tell the supplementary would be about why there had been no prosecutions since her Bill became law in 2003 when she asked it this time. She has campaigned tirelessly on this issue – credit to her.

Whilst prosecutions aren’t the answer to stopping the hideous practice – and fmg will be part of the strategy being formed to end violence against women which will be published in Spring 2011 – I was interested myself in understanding why none had been brought,.

I have no doubt that if a case was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service it would be prosecuted – but none have been referred by the police. Obviously in researching the answers – it came to light that there was an awful lot of work going on. There have been many investigations started – but none have produced the evidence needed to take the case all the way to prosecution.

Why? It would seem a number of reasons inhibit the collections of evidence. Firstly – the victim is usually too young at the time of the act to remember anything and doesn’t necessarily even know that she has been changed. The families do not want to give evidence and the communities that practise this  won’t often help the police as they want to carry on their customs. Also families often say that the child was ‘done’ before coming to this country in a country where it is not illegal.

There was a news item recently about Egypt – where the practise was banned two years ago – but still nine out of ten young girls are mutilated. So here in this country the government is putting its resource into education and public awareness – as only a cultural change will ultimately bring about the necessary change.

The police in the form of Project Azure have made some progress and take the issue very seriously. For those women who are against the practise but feel too weak or unable to sustain the hostility from their families or community – the police help them sign a pledge not to mutilate the daughters and then they use the written and signed document to show their families that the practise is against the law.

At Heathrow Terminal 4 (which fly to those countries where parents take their daughters at the beginning of the summer holidays to be ‘done’ and come back at end of holidays when they are healed) the police have been approaching likely families and explaining the law to them – not just about the law if the practise is carried out here – but also that it is illegal to take them to a country elsewhere to have it done.

Each year since 2003 when the law was introduced the number of investigations by the police have increased – so the trend is in the right direction  – but there is clearly still a very long way to go!