BBC, Mar. 23, 2003
Parents who take their daughters out of the country to undergo circumcision will face 14 years imprisonment under plans backed by the government.
Home Secretary David Blunkett says he is determined to outlaw “this vile practice” by closing a loophole in the law that would have banned it 17 years ago.
Female circumcision involves the surgical removal of the clitoris and sometimes parts of the labia, reducing the ability to feel sexual pleasure.
Some people from ethnic minorities avoid prosecution by arranging for girls to have the operation during a “holiday” abroad.
Labour MP Ann Clwyd’s Female Genital Mutilation Bill repeals and re-enacts measures within the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985.
It will make it against the law to take girls abroad for the operation and increases penalties from five to 14 years.
Mr Blunkett said: “Female genital mutilation is a barbaric practice that is rightly illegal in this country.
“It cannot be justified on cultural, medical or any other grounds. It causes extreme pain and suffering and often leads to permanent health problems.
“I am determined to ensure this vile practice is completely outlawed and I am very pleased Ann Clwyd brought forward this private members bill, without which I would have brought forward government legislation.”
Some 74,000 first generation African immigrant women in the UK are believed to have undergone female circumcision.
Experts say there are also up to 7,000 girls under 16 within these communities who are at risk from the practice, which is common among Somali, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Yemeni, Malaysian and Indonesian communities.
Female circumcision is more common among some Muslim communities, but it is not exclusively linked with Islam.
It is usually performed on girls between the ages of four and 13, but new born babies and young women before marriage or pregnancy can also be targeted.
Reasons given for carrying it out include: custom and tradition, religious demand, family honour, hygiene and prevention of promiscuity.
The home secretary said: “I have visited support groups working with women who have suffered this appalling practice and was very moved by their terrible plight.
“This dreadful procedure has no place in a modern, civilised Britain.
“Female genital mutilation is an issue which affects women from a range of different communities.
“Regardless of cultural background, it is completely unacceptable and should be illegal, wherever it takes place.”