Female Genital Mutilation and Designer Vaginas in Britain: Crafting an Effective Legal and Policy Framework
The prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Britain and Europe has grown in recent years as a result of international migration, and European institutions have grown increasingly concerned with eradicating the practice. According to the European Parliament, approximately 500,000 girls and women living in Europe have undergone FGM and are suffering with the lifelong consequences of the procedure, and more than 30,000 girls in Britain are thought to be at risk of future FGM. Although Britain strengthened its law against FGM in 2003, the number of girls at risk continues to grow, and there have been no convictions for FGM in England and Wales. This Article examines Britain’s legal and policy approach to FGM, analyzing key gaps in British law that allow girls at risk to go unprotected and giving a range of policy suggestions for closing these gaps. The Article also gives particular attention to the relationship between FGM and so-called “designer vagina” surgeries, addressing the double standard whereby FGM is prohibited by law while designer vagina surgery has been allowed to flourish. The Article concludes with legal and policy recommendations for increasing protection against FGM and for coordinating the approach to FGM and designer vagina surgery. In particular, it proposes a Model FGM law that is much more robust than Britain’s current FGM law and provides additional opportunities to protect those at risk and to prosecute those who facilitate or carry out FGM.