A woman in the UK is the first person to be protected with a joint Forced Marriage Protection Order and Female Genital Mutilation Protection Order.
The woman was due to be married in a mutually agreeable arranged marriage when the marriage was called off suddenly by the groom-to-be’s family as she had not undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). Her father then began to receive threats from family members for not having his daughter cut.
The pressure on her grew to undergo FGM as a number of arranged marriages fell through as she was not considered respectable amongst the community as she had not been circumcised.
After seeing her GP to try arrange an appointment to be cut, the woman was referred to West Midlands Police. She informed them that she believed she was at imminent risk of her father arranging a forced marriage and that she could be taken abroad to undergo FGM.
The police applied for joint Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) and a FGM Protection Order (FGMPO) to keep her safe – the first of its kind.
A FMPO can be used to protect a person from being forced into marriage or to protect a person who has been forced into marriage. It can include any kind of coercion aimed at any person (for example a threat by a parent to commit suicide if the person does not enter into a marriage) to cause a person to enter into a marriage without their free and full consent. Breach of the Order is a criminal offence and is punishable with up to 5 years imprisonment.
A FGMPO can be used to protect a person at risk from FGM. Breach of the order is a criminal offence and is punishable by up to 5 years’ imprisonment. FGM has been a specific criminal offence since 1985 and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment. There is also a criminal offence of failing to protect a girl from FGM. This carried a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment. However to date, no one has been prosecuted for committing FGM.
The barrister drafting the Order can be creative in drafting terms to keep the person safe. In this case, the Order included a term which directed the father to change his phone number and email address to prevent contact with those who might encourage him to make his daughter undergo FGM or force her to marry. The Orders can be made against a wide range of people – not simply the parents. An Order may give other family members the strength to stand behind an Order to refuse to assist a controlling father or mother.
The Orders are not applied for in isolation. The police will apply for an Order for the removal of the passport of the protected person and for a Port Alert, to prevent the person from being taken abroad where they could be married and or cut.
All Orders are usually applied for without notice to the protected person’s family to deal with the imminent risk that they will be married or cut. It is also hoped that by putting the Order in place as soon as possible it will give the protected person the space needed to maintain their account before family members seek to deter him or her from doing so. As it is the police who apply for the Order on behalf of the person to be protected, it alleviates some of the pressure on that individual as the police can tell the court the individual’s circumstances without the already vulnerable individual having to give evidence against her family.