13:28, February 12 50 0 theguardian.com

2019-02-12 13:28:07
In defence of Christopher Chope on FGM legislation

I’m a doctor who runs a specialist FGM clinical service. Last week, Sir Christopher Chope MP objected to the passage of a private member’s bill seeking amendment to the Children Act 1989 which would apparently close a perceived legal gap to allow family courts to make interim care and supervisory orders about children deemed at risk of FGM. He has since faced near-universal condemnation – a man denying passage of new laws to protect the safety and rights of children! Rapidly cast as villainous misogynist, his political career now appears threatened (Minister to challenge Tory MP who blocked FGM legislation, 11 February). Good copy, but is the vilification justified?

What seems to have been overlooked entirely in parliament and subsequent reporting is that such powers already exist in the family court. I work in a multi-agency setting safeguarding children who might be at risk of FGM. I have observed judgment made in favour of an interim supervisory order rather than an FGM protection order in the same family court sitting. There were no delays. There were no separate applications. Children can be protected robustly and immediately.

The case for new FGM-specific laws and amendments has been inadequately made in this instance. Chope spoke up to caution against hasty introduction of further legislation. We do not need new laws that are disproportionate and potentially stigmatising when existing ones work well. Chope’s objection is reasonable, not preposterous. Discussion around FGM increasingly takes place in a highly emotive and heavily politicised arena. Ill-informed debate fuelling hostility serves no one well and needs to cease.

Dr Brenda Kelly

Director of the Oxford Rose Clinic

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