Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is child abuse. If you are worried you might be at risk of FGM, phone Childline on 0800 1111

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is a grave violation of the human rights of girls and women to life and their right to health. This is a crime in the UK even if the person is taken overseas for the mutilation. It is also sometimes known as female circumcision or ‘sunna’.

The procedure is traditionally carried out by an older woman with no medical training. The procedure can have significant long and short term health implications (including immediate fatal haemorrhaging, severe pain and shock, urine retention, infections, sexual dysfunction and complications in pregnancy and child birth). In addition to these health consequences, there are considerable psycho-sexual, psychological and social consequences of FGM.

The UK Government has signed a number of international human rights laws against FGM, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The law relating to female genital mutilation was amended by the introduction of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, which came into effect in March 2004. This repealed and replaced the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985.

The 2003 Act:

  • Makes it illegal to practice FGM in the UK;
  •  Makes it illegal to take girls who are British nationals or permanent residents of the UK abroad for FGM whether or not it is lawful in that country;
  • Makes it illegal to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad;
  • Has a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and/or a fine.

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For help, advice and further information contact FORWARD on 020 8960 4000 and visit their website.

Who is at risk?

The age at which the practice is carried out varies, from shortly after birth to the labour of the first child, depending on the community or individual family. The most common age is between four and ten, although it appears to be falling. This suggests that circumcision is becoming less strongly linked to puberty rites and initiation into adulthood.

What to do if you suspect a girl is at risk of FGM?

If you are at risk of FGM, or concerned about someone who may be at risk of FGM, in the UK or abroad, talk to a professional you trust, report it to the police and or contact the Devon Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 0345 155 1071 or email mashsecure@devon.gcsx.gov.uk and give as much information as you can. .

If you suspect that any girl is at risk of being subjected to any form of FGM, take action to report it immediately!

What to do if you have experienced female genital mutilation, female circumcision or cutting?

If you have experienced female genital mutilation, female circumcision or cutting then support is available. There is a national FGM helpline 0800 028 3550 if you are seeking advice, information or support.

There are 15 specialist clinics in the NHS that offer a range of healthcare services for women and girls who have been subjected to FGM, including reversal surgery. All of these clinics are NHS clinics and are therefore free of charge. Most clinics are run by specially trained doctors, nurses, or midwives who understand FGM and are able to treat some of the medical problems caused by it. Your GP (or Midwife if you are pregnant) will be able to refer you.

NHS choices logoFor more information see the NHS FGM Health Services webpage