The Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee has started its detailed scrutiny of plans to enhance protections for women and girls who have suffered or who are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM).
The Committee will be hearing directly from communities and individuals affected by FGM through its outreach work, as well as from officials who will be tasked with administering any changes. It has also today launched a general call for views on the issue.
The Scottish Government’s current proposals include creating ‘FGM Protection Orders’. These orders would impose conditions or requirements on individuals to protect someone from FMG, or to keep an FGM victim safe.
The Government estimates between four and nine applications for orders would be made each year in Scotland. The Bill also strengthens guidance to public bodies for matters related to FGM.
All local authority areas have communities potentially affected by FGM, though most affected individuals are thought to live in Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Aberdeen.
Speaking as the call for views was launched, Equalities and Human Rights Committee Convener, Ruth Maguire MSP, said:
“Female Genital Mutilation violates the fundamental human rights and basic dignity of women and girls.
“The Committee is unequivocal in its support for protecting women and girls at risk of FGM. Both to prevent it from happening, and in our desire to help those who have been subjected to it.
“We will be looking closely at how protection orders and other proposals will ensure these aims are met. To help us in this work, we want to hear a range of views and evidence.”
The call for views is open until 30 August, and can be found online at www.parliament.scot/EHRiC.
FGM has explicitly been a crime in the UK since 1985. Scotland repealed and replaced this legislation with the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005. There is now some divergence between legislation in Scotland and England and Wales, with different legislation passed by the UK and Scottish Parliaments. The most recent UK legislation on this matter being the Serious Crime Act 2015.
The Serious Crime Act 2015 includes provisions in England and Wales which do not apply in Scotland, including anonymity for FGM victims, and an offence of failing to protect a girl from risk of FGM. These are not included in the proposed Bill, and there was a mixed response to their introduction in the Scottish Government’s consultation.
The Scottish Government introduced an FGM action plan in 2016, which involves different agencies and aims to eradicate FGM in Scotland. The Scottish Government has also consulted on a range of measures and heard views which informed this Bill under consideration by the Equalities and Human Rights Committee.
The Bill and associated documents are online at this link.