Travel Ban Imposed to Protect Child at Risk of Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a crime, both in England and abroad, and judges are firm in their attempts to stamp out the practice. In one case, a family judge banned a Muslim convert mother from leaving the country with her one-year-old daughter for fear that the child would be subjected to FGM.

The British-born mother had embraced Islam after meeting her daughter’s Egyptian father whilst working in that country’s hotel industry. Her daughter was born following her return to England but she planned to take her to Egypt regularly to visit her father and his family. However, a local authority was put on the alert after a health visitor expressed concerns that the child was at risk of FGM.

The father and his family were insistent that they had no intention of subjecting her to the procedure. However, in granting the council a protection order under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, the judge found that there was a real risk that the girl would fall victim to FGM if she travelled to Egypt.

The judge noted evidence that more than 90 per cent of Egyptian women undergo FGM and that the father appeared to view it as part of his culture. He believed that the practice should be legalised and carried out in hospital, and had expressed surprise that the mother had not undergone the procedure herself.

The judge ordered that the child’s passport be retained by the Court to prevent her travelling to Egypt before she reaches the age of 16. Her mother was also banned from taking her outside the UK, to obviate any risk of onward travel to Egypt. The judge encouraged the father and the paternal family to visit the girl in England.