THE SCOTSMAN, Scotland, Wednesday, 3 March 2004.

Parents Face Jail over Female Circumcision 'Holidays'

By David Barrett, PA News

Parents who take their daughters abroad to undergo female circumcision will face up to 14 years in jail under measures which come into force today.

Home Secretary David Blunkett announced a year ago that he would act to close a loophole in measures which banned female circumcision 17 years ago.

Some ethnic minority communities have evaded the law by arranging for girls to have the operation during a “holiday” abroad.

Female circumcision involves the surgical removal of the clitoris, and sometimes parts of the labia, reducing the ability to feel sexual pleasure.

Female genital mutilation is common among Somali, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Yemeni, Malaysian and Indonesian communities.

Around 138 million women worldwide have undergone genital mutilation, according to the World Health Organisation.

Experts believe there are 74,000 first generation African immigrant women in the UK who have undergone female circumcision.

There are also up to 7,000 girls under 16 within these communities who are at risk from the procedure.

The operation is usually performed on girls between the ages of four and 13, but can sometimes be inflicted on newborn babies or on young women before marriage or pregnancy.

Numerous reasons given for the practice include custom and tradition, religious demand, family honour, hygiene and prevention of promiscuity.

Female genital mutilation is a criminal offence in the UK under the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985.

The Female Genital Mutilation Act re-enacts provisions of the 1985 Act and gives them power outside UK borders.

(File created 5 March 2004)