Is prosecution the best way of tackling female genital mutilation? And if it is, what should be the sanction? A major reason for the low rate of reporting and successful prosecutions must surely be the reluctance of victims to be responsible for giving their mother or aunt a criminal record, and all the more so if they think that conviction will lead to a prison sentence. And prosecution does nothing for the girl who has already suffered this abuse; it only works, if it works, by deterring others, If there is a prison sentence this will only bring about a change of attitude if the prison runs specific re-education courses, which few if any do. The hope would be that the perpetrators would spread their new understanding in their cultural group; but this would be unreliable as a preventive strategy..
To start with prevention: Tina Rosenberg in her book Join the club; how peer pressure can transform the world (2011) shows how organised peer pressure can change attitudes to smoking, safe sex, and other manifestations of prejudice, and even generate resistance to a dictatorship. This could be an effective strategy for combating FGM, especially as some brave women are already showing themselves willing to act. For those who nonetheless committed the offence, there would be less reluctance to report and then give evidence if the victim knew that the end result would not be a prison sentence but a programme of meetings with victims and others who could speak of the effects on their lives, and would know that they would at last be heard.