Imagine living in a world where young girls are under constant fear of having their bodies mutilated in the most horrific way, leading to life-long mental and physical repercussions. Unfortunately this is exactly what is happening behind closed doors within some of our communities.
It is estimated that over 100,000 women in England and Wales are living with the consequences of female genital mutilation and approximately 60,000 girls under the age of 15 were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone FGM, and could be potential victims themselves. The consequences of this appalling act can range from psychological damage to complications during pregnancy and even infertility.
I am committed to tackling and preventing this abhorrent practise. Last year the Government and UNICEF hosted the first ever Girls Summit which was a fantastic success, attended by representatives from the voluntary sector, frontline professionals and dignitaries from around the world. The aim - to end female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage within a generation. A mammoth aim, but one which we are getting closer and closer to achieving.
We made a decision to fast-track FGM protection orders to come into effect ahead of the summer holidays, when it is thought that young girls are most at risk of having this terrible crime committed on them either at home or abroad.
As of Friday, anyone who fears that a young girl is at risk of FGM can apply to the court for a protection order, which includes potential and actual victims, local authorities, teachers, doctors or social workers. The court will then decide what action to take to protect the victim- this could for instance include the confiscation of passports or travel documents to prevent girls from being taken abroad, prohibiting someone from bringing a 'cutter' to the UK, or preventing a person involved in the act from coming into contact with the young person.
I want to make sure that anyone involved in this horrific practice, will be behind bars for a long-time. This is why someone in breach of a protection order can face up to five years in prison. This is in addition to laws already brought in - someone found guilty of assisting or performing FGM can face a sentence of up to fourteen years, whilst someone with responsibility of a child who has FGM performed on them, but failed to prevent the act could also face a sentence of up to seven years.
These girls and the communities around them now know they will have somewhere to turn, that the law is on their side and help is out there. We will continue to work closely with community groups and help to raise awareness of FGM. We will not stop until this horrific practise is stamped out for good.
Caroline Dinenage is MP for Gosport and Women, Equalities and Family Justice MinisterSuggest a correction