Female Genital Mutilation

What is female genital mutilation (FGM)?

FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other damage to the genital organs, for supposed cultural, religious or non-medical reasons.

FGM, also known as female circumcision, ‘cutting’ and ‘sunna’ is most commonly performed upon females in infancy, childhood and adolescence. It is also performed post-childbirth.

FGM inflicts severe physical and psychological damage which can last a lifetime.

FGM is routinely practiced in some African and Middle Eastern countries, in some countries up to 98 per cent of young women have undergone the FGM procedure. Around 66,000 girls and women living in England and Wales have undergone FGM, with a further estimated 20,000 girls under the age of 15 at risk.

In the UK, FGM is child abuse and a crime.

It is a grave violation of the human rights of girls and women. In all circumstances where FGM is practised on a child it is a violation of the child’s right to life, their right to their bodily integrity, as well as their right to health.

While there is some intelligence to suggest FGM is being physically performed in the UK; most victims are usually taken abroad, commonly on flights in the holiday periods of Easter, summer and Christmas.

FGM warning signs

Within education:

  • Days off school.
  • Not participating in PE.
  • In pain/restricted movement.
  • Change in behaviour/demeanour.
  • Parents originate from an FGM-practising country.

Family history:

  • The family come from a community that is known to practise FGM.
  • Parents announce they will be taking the child out of the country for a prolonged period.
  • A child may talk about a long holiday to a country where FGM is routinely practiced.
  • A child may confide that she is to have a 'special procedure' or celebration.

Impact on health and wellbeing:

  • Haemorrhage.
  • Severe pain and shock.
  • Urine retention.
  • Infection including tetanus and HIV.
  • Injury to adjacent tissue.
  • Fracture or dislocation to limbs as a result of restraint.
  • Difficulty with passing urine and chronic urinary tract infections leading to renal problems or renal failure.
  • Difficulties with menstruation.
  • Acute and chronic pelvic infections leading to infertility.
  • Sexual dysfunction/psychological damage and flashbacks.
  • Complications during pregnancy.
  • Chronic scar formations.

Police involvement

It is an offence under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 for a person to excise, infibulate or otherwise mutilate the whole or any part of a girl’s labia majora, labia minora, or clitoris either in the UK (excluding Scotland) or to arrange for a female to be taken abroad for the purpose of FGM.

This includes:

  • Assisting a girl to mutilate her own genitalia.
  • Assisting a non-UK person to mutilate overseas a girl’s genitalia, even if FGM in that country is legal.

Failing to protect a girl from FGM is an offence under section 72 of the Serious Crime Act 2015. If an offence of FGM is committed against a girl under the age of 16, each person who is responsible for the girl at the time that FGM occurred will be guilty of an offence.

Anyone found guilty of an FGM offence or aiding and abetting an offence faces up to 14 years in prison.

Help is available if you or anyone at risk is concerned about FGM:

You can find out more about FGM and support for those affected by it from the NSPCC (opens new window) and NHS (opens new window) websites.