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Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other damage to the genital organs for cultural and/or religious reasons.

The practice is illegal in the UK and is child abuse.

FGM is commonly practiced among some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities, both around the world and in the UK.

In some countries up to 98 per cent of young women have undergone FGM.

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.

FGM is also known as female circumcision or ‘cutting’ and can affect females from birth to adulthood. This harmful practice can have detrimental long- and short-term physical and psychological affects on the victim.

Most victims are taken out of the country, commonly during the school holidays to have the practice performed. However, intelligence suggests it is also being performed in the UK.

Warning signs

  • Education: Days off school, not participating in PE, change in behaviour, decline in performance, withdrawn from sex education.
  • Health: Haemorrhage, urinary tract infection, severe pain and shock, broken limbs as a result of restraint, difficulties menstruating, sexual dysfunction, psychological damage, complications during pregnancy, sometimes even death. NHS Health Services have further information. 
  • Family: Family from a practicing community, parents taking child on holiday for a prolonged period, child may be told she is having a special procedure or celebration.

Why is FGM Practiced?

FGM is performed in many countries as an important part of their culture and tradition. People practice it because it is something that their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers had practiced. Often men and women support the practice.

The below list provides some of the common reasons that have been suggested by practicing communities:

  • To keep the cultural identity of a community.
  • To signal that a girl has become a woman.
  • To preserve a girl’s virginity to prove she has not had sex before marriage, making men more willing to marry her and pay more for bridal price.
  • To decrease a woman’s sexual desire. 
  • To prepare a girl for marriage. Once FGM has been performed a girl is seen as ready for marriage.
  • To enhance men’s sexual pleasure.
  • To increase a girls beauty.
  • To follow a religious requirement (although there is no evidence to suggest that FGM is required by any religion).

Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003

FGM is illegal in the UK and under the legislation it is an offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for anyone to:

  • Perform FGM in the UK.
  • Assist anyone to carry out the procedure in the UK.
  • Assist a girl to carry out FGM on herself in the UK.
  • Assist from the UK, a non-UK person to carry out FGM outside the UK on a UK national or permanent UK resident.

The act also makes it illegal for UK nationals or UK residents to:

  • Perform FGM on any person overseas.
  • Assist FGM to be carried out abroad by a UK national or permanent UK resident.
  • Assist FGM carried out abroad by a non UK national on a girl who is a UK national or UK resident.
  • Assist a girl to perform FGM on herself outside of the UK. These offences carry a maximum sentence of up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

Victims of FGM

If you are worried that you or someone you know is a victim of FGM, please contact us immediately. This can be done:

Remember to always call 999 if you or someone else is in immediate danger.

Any reports of FGM will be provided to specially trained officers in our Safeguarding Investigation Units.

You can give a report to us anonymously – we will record and investigate offences even if you do not want to give your details.


Further advice and support

The below agencies can be provide further information on FGM:

  • NSPCC FGM Helpline 0800 028 3550
  • Childline 0800 1111 (24hr free helpline)
  • Home Office
  • FORWARD UK  020 8960 4000