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FGM is a 'hidden' crime that involves altering or removing parts of the female genital organs for non medical reasons. It is practised throughout countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East but is illegal in the UK. The punishment for this is a maximum of 14 years imprisonment and/or a fine.

There are various reasons given for this procedure including religious, social and cultural. However, in the UK it is seen as a form of child abuse and a violation of the child's right to life. The girls are usually aged between 5-8years but it can happen any time up until marriage or having a baby.

As a result of FGM, women suffer both physical and psychological trauma. This can include severe pain, bleeding, discomfort during sex and fertility problems. Psychologically they may experience flashbacks and nightmares.

If you are concerned that someone you know is at risk of/undergone FGM, below are some key signs to look out for -

  • their family belong to a community that practice FGM and are planning a holiday. The child may even mention a special event that is going to take place.
  • Unusual behaviour on their return - discomfort, can't sit still, difficulty walking
  • Be reluctant to undergo medical examinations and may mention something has happened but they're not allowed to say what.

If you or someone you know has undergone/is at risk of FGM, we would advise that you contact the NSPCC FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550, via their email address - fgmhelp or you can inform your local police force via 101.

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Answers in this FAQ section are provided by the 'Ask the Police' website. Produced by the Police National Legal Database (PNLD) team, 'Ask the Police' is an official police site approved by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC). All FAQ answers are © PNLD.