Nkumbe Ekaney KC, instructed by Ravi Mahey of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, acted for the first respondent mother (M) in the recent decision of Re H (a Child)  EWFC 19, in which the court considered the risks of Female Genital Mutilation to child arrangements, namely international travel and the child’s contact with F.
The case, concerning a 7-year-old girl (H), was brought by the child’s guardian against the mother and father. M was brought up in The Gambia and the parties married in The Gambia, but H was born in the UK. The issues relevant to child arrangements included: previous findings of domestic abuse against F; an ongoing FGM order in light of M’s experience of FGM and the family’s links to The Gambia; the existence of a worldwide travel ban in place for H; a paternity test confirming that F was not H’s biological father; and the risk of FGM to H by the unidentified father in The Gambia.
Mother sought for the relaxation of the travel ban to allow her to holiday with H to Gambia for 18 days, and a stepped contact order in respect of H and F. F remained neutral on the travel ban, but sought immediate unsupervised contact with H. The guardian did not oppose the relaxation of the travel ban, provided that necessary safeguards identified by M were put in place, and supported unsupervised contact between H and F.
The Court determined on the basis of expert evidence that the risk of FGM to H in travelling to Gambia was low and could be managed by the safeguards suggested by M, as well as undertakings regarding FGM and any unidentified father in The Gambia. The court also held that F should be treated as a father with PR despite the lack of biological paternity, as he was registered on H’s birth certificate, and thus he should have unsupervised contact with H fortnightly.