Bedfordshire Police hit the headlines recently when they, alongside Luton Borough Council, issued the first ever female genital mutilation (FGM) protection order.
Detective Constable Gordon Huxford was one of the officers who worked on the case…
I work for the public protection unit and deal with different types of child abuse cases on a day to day basis. Female genital mutilation is no different, it is child abuse. It is a cruel and barbaric procedure that can leave the woman with health issues, not to mention the psychological ones.
Last week, on Thursday, we became aware that there were concerns for two girls who could potentially be at risk of being flown abroad to be mutilated. As always when someone is at risk, you have to act fast.
We arranged a strategy meeting with our partner agencies, discussed the family history, and then made decisions from there. The mother of the children had herself had FGM carried out on her, which is an additional risk factor.
Partnership work is key to dealing with this and any type of child abuse. We couldn’t achieve what we do without working with health, education, and social services.
Time was precious so we immediately went to see the family and explained the situation to them.
Our priority was to ensure the safety of the children, who weren’t at the family home so we had to locate them and then safeguard them.
The children’s father was at the airport, just about to embark on a trip abroad, the purpose of which we believe was to plan the FGM procedure. Officers attended the airport and managed to stop him before he got on the plane to discuss the situation with him. Then we had to look at how we could prevent them from being taken abroad in the future.
Fortunately, new legislation came into place on Friday. Police and social care applied for the order and gave statements to the court. The order was granted soon afterwards and prevents the two children from being taken abroad.
If the order is broken, those responsible could receive up to five years in jail.
There are a number of difficulties with dealing with this type of situation, including language and cultural barriers. To many families, FGM is part of their tradition. It is a rite of passage and to not do it goes against their beliefs.
Some people believe that having FGM will bring status and respect to a girl, as well as maintaining the family honour and ridding the family of bad luck and evil spirits. It’s really pleasing to be able to work as part of such a team effort to safeguard and prevent children from suffering unnecessary harm.