Publication - Consultation paper

Strengthening protection from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): consultation

Published: 4 Oct 2018

We are seeking views on plans to strengthen the existing legislative framework for the protection of women and girls from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a form of gender based violence. 

29 page PDF

531.5 kB

29 page PDF

531.5 kB

Contents
Strengthening protection from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): consultation
Annex A - Results of FGM Stakeholder Survey Conducted in 2015

29 page PDF

531.5 kB

Annex A - Results of FGM Stakeholder Survey Conducted in 2015

A New Offence

Level of support

Do you think that Scotland should introduce an offence so that parents can be prosecuted if they fail to prevent their daughter being subjected to FGM?

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Almost half of respondents (15 out of 32) were 'not sure' about introducing a new offence; 11 were in favour, and 6 against.

Arguments in favour

Stakeholders arguing in favour of introducing a new offence emphasised that this would send out a very strong message to parents and communities that FGM is unacceptable in Scotland. They also noted its potential to change mind-sets and cultural values positively whilst acting as a strong deterrent which reinforces the parental duty of care and gives children legal protection.

Arguments against

Argument against were broadly in three areas. First concerns that a blanket offence would not be able to pick up the nuances of individual cases and would prosecute parents when they did not have the knowledge, opportunity, capability, power or resources necessary to prevent FGM from taking place. Secondly, that current legislation allows for prosecution of any individual who abuses/allows a child to be abused which makes the prevention of FGM the responsibility of everyone under Child Protection. Thirdly, that it may cause more harm by reducing reporting and engagement with services by victims or parents for fear of reprisals. Finally they argued that it would be difficult to enforce in practice.

Other ways of providing the equivalent protection

Stakeholders noted that there were other ways of providing equivalent protection including engaging with public and communities to make sure they understand the rationale for making FGM an offence; advice and support for families travelling abroad on how to keep girls safe; better use of existing legislation; more robust adult and child protection services, in particular in community localities at risk of FGM practice; improved training and education for medical staff, teachers, social workers and for the children themselves and where appropriate robust information sharing between health / education / police.

Lifelong anonymity for victims

Level of support

Do you think that Scotland should grant victims of FGM lifelong anonymity from the time an allegation is made?

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A majority of respondents (21 out of 32) supported granting victims lifelong anonymity; 9 were 'not sure', and 2 against.

Arguments in favour

Arguments in favour of anonymity noted that it would be intrusive and stigmatising for victims to have FGM status on records and that there were no public interest grounds to do so.

Arguments against

Arguments against noted that some women might choose not to have anonymity. For women who are victims of abuse it is extremely important that they are empowered and allowed to choose. Others required more clarity on what is meant by anonymity and whether it related specifically to court processes or media or wider services. Some argued that there might be a need to share information across partner agencies to both support victims and prevent future FGM practice.

Implementation/enforcement

Stakeholders provided a range of views on how this could be implemented varying from providing new identity like a witness protection scheme to adopting current anonymity systems provided by Scottish law for minors and victims of rape or serious sexual assault. Some thought that the safeguards of existing data protection regulations around sensitive/confidential data would be sufficient.

Mandatory Duty to Report

Level of support

Do you think that Scotland should introduce a mandatory duty for doctors, teachers and others to report cases of FGM to the police if they believe they have seen that FGM has occurred?

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Just under half of respondents (15 out of 32) supported introducing a mandatory duty; 10 were 'not sure', and 7 against.

Arguments in favour

Stakeholders said that it would give professionals a very clear mandate and remove any dubiety around their actions. For cases of girls under 16 it would also bring practice into line with child abuse/neglect duties of care. In addition it was noted that it would raise the profile of FGM potentially bringing more prosecutions and ensuring that children in communities and families related to a known FGM victim could be offered better protection.

Arguments against

Arguments against discussed how such a mandatory duty may well conflict with other duties to the client/patient/pupil related to confidentiality and choice as well as questioning the level of evidence of 'belief' required before reporting and the level of training and guidance that would be required for doctors and teachers. Some thought that it may prevent victims from engaging with health and other services for fear of unintended consequences and may even raise the potential for members of certain ethnic minority communities to be stigmatised. Finally one stakeholder questioned whether there was evidence that mandatory reporting either increases prosecutions or reduces abuse.

Alternatives

A range of alternatives were suggested including implementing robust adult and child protection services; providing specialist services for victims; providing in-depth and intense training and education for appropriate public services accompanied by a non-mandatory referral system; community engagement; use of existing systems and protocols governing the sharing of information between NHS, Police and other partners.

Statutory Guidance for Professionals

Level of support

Do you think that Scotland should place the existing FGM guidance for professionals on a statutory basis?

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Just under half of respondents (15 out of 32) were 'not sure' about placing guidance on a statutory basis; 14 were in favour, and 3 against.

Arguments in favour

Stakeholders thought that statutory duties brought status, single guidance, clear accountability for implementation and a clear prevention message. It also prevented professionals 'hiding' behind patient confidentiality.

Arguments against

Stakeholders felt there was a need for greater clarity on how 'statutory' guidance would differ from other guidance, how it would fit with non-statutory child protection guidance and whether there would be space for discretion. Some stakeholders again felt that enforcing existing statutes would be more effective.

Alternatives

Stakeholders noted that alternatives could be intensive training and awareness raising, the promotion of existing child protection legislation and extending the existing 'violence against women' guidance to explicitly include FGM.

FGM Protection Orders

Do you think that Scotland should introduce a specific civil protection order for potential victims of FGM?

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A majority of respondents (19 out of 32) were 'not sure' about introducing a specific civil protection order; 11 were in favour, and 2 against.

Arguments in favour

Some stakeholders felt that FGM is a unique phenomenon and its prevention requires a specific civil law measure. They argued that a protection order would empower women and/or families who are under pressure from others to undertake FGM, providing them an opportunity for positive choices and pre-emptive action.

Arguments against

Stakeholder noted that civil protection orders would require victims and potential victims to disclose themselves and that this is not currently happening. They felt that any legislation would need to be accompanied by a targeted prevention programme of community engagement and public education to influence a change in culture. Some stakeholders wanted further clarity on what conditions the order would impose or restrict whilst others noted that existing legislation may be adequate.

Views on how long the protection order should last

Some stakeholders felt that an order should last until adulthood / age of consent; some said it should last a lifetime whilst others said it would depend on the individual case and that the subject should be consulted.


Contact

FGMconsultation@gov.scot