THE Scottish Equalities Minister has rejected suggestions that a new Bill on female genital mutilation (FGM) targets specific minorities.

Speaking at the Equalities and Human Rights Committee yesterday, Christina McKelvie said the Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance) (Scotland) Bill does not racially profile.

She added that statutory guidance which will be created for health and care professionals as part of the Bill will be written in consultation with communities most affected by FGM.

While the practice has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985, the new legislation aims to provide extra protection to those at risk.

In 2016, Unicef estimated 200 million women were living with the effects of FGM in around 30 countries, primarily in Africa.

But McKelvie said changes in migration patterns mean FGM has come to the UK.

The Bill would put in place statutory guidance from the Scottish Government as well as FGM protection orders, which could be brought before courts in order to care for a person after the act has been carried out, or to help someone at risk.

Using the orders, the courts will have the power to have the protected person taken to a place of safety.

SNP MSP Angela Constance pointed to evidence presented to the committee, with witnesses suggesting a similar law in England ran the risk of racial profiling.

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McKelvie said: “I heard some of that evidence too and I have to say that we have to reject the assertion that the Bill racially profiles people. The Bill doesn’t do that. We need to understand that FGM is a form of child abuse and gender-based violence and everyone needs to be protected from it.

“We also know that FGM has been practised across many countries, continents, communities and belief systems for around 5000 years, and because of global migration patterns it’s something that happens globally now.”

The minister said the language of the Bill, which was introduced in May, and any subsequent action taken if it is passed is important to ensure there is no racial profiling.

She said: “We need to be careful with how we frame that language and we’re going to consider very carefully after hearing that evidence how we develop our statutory guidance and consult with communities.

“We don’t want to create the idea that this could be racial profiling, but we do know that this is child abuse and everybody needs to be protected from that.”

According to McKelvie, the statutory guidance which will be issued as part of the Bill will allow healthcare professionals and others to “speak confidently” about the issue with women or girls thought to be at risk.