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Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003

Section 1: Offence of female genital mutilation

6.Section 1 makes it an offence for a person to perform an FGM operation on a girl (subsection (1) ).  Subsection (2) provides a saving for necessary surgical operations and operations carried out in connection with childbirth.  However, the saving applies only if the operation is carried out: in the UK by a registered medical practitioner or registered midwife or a person training to be one (subsection (3) ); or outside the UK by overseas equivalents of such persons (subsection (4) ). Operations necessary for physical health are likely to be rare but could, for example, include the removal of relevant cancerous areas.  Operations necessary for mental health could include, for example, cosmetic surgery resulting from the distress caused by a perception of abnormality or gender reassignment surgery.  However, subsection (5) provides that in assessing a girl’s mental health no account is taken of any belief that the operation is needed as a matter of custom or ritual.  So an FGM operation could not legally occur on the ground that a girl’s mental health would suffer if she did not conform with the prevailing custom of her community.

7.There is no fixed procedure for determining whether a person carrying out an FGM operation outside the UK is an overseas equivalent of a medical practitioner etc for the purpose of subsection (4).  If a prosecution is brought, this will be a matter for the courts (in the UK) to determine on the facts of the case.

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