Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a form of abuse which can have devastating physical and psychological consequences for girls and women.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes FGM as "procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons" (WHO, 2013).
FGM is sometimes also known as ‘female circumcision’ or ‘female genital cutting’ and is mostly carried out on young girls.
FGM procedures can cause:
- severe bleeding
- problems with giving birth later in life - including the death of the baby
These procedures are illegal in the UK.
Since 1985 it has been a serious criminal offence under the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act to perform FGM or to assist a girl to perform FGM on herself. It is also illegal to take a British national or permanent resident out of the UK to undergo FGM or to help someone else to do so. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 tightened this law to criminalise FGM being carried out on UK citizens overseas.
Anyone found guilty of carrying out FGM or helping it to take place faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
Since 17 July 2015 the Courts are able to stop suspected overseas “cutters” (those performing FGM) from coming to Britain under a law to protect girls from female genital mutilation. The legislation, which allows ‘FGM protection orders’ to be issued for the first time, will also allow passports to be seized from people who want to take girls abroad for mutilation. Orders barring family members from conspiring or encouraging others to commit mutilation will also be available to the courts under the new powers.
The initial restrictions will be imposed using civil powers, but breach of an order will be a criminal offence carrying a potential prison sentence of up to five years. For more information about ‘FGM protection orders’ please visit:
Help and support
If you know someone in the UK that is at risk of having FGM performed on them you should contact the police or the Essex Safeguarding Children Board. Alternatively, if the person has already been taken abroad you can contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on: 020 7008 1500 (from overseas: +44 20 7008 1500)
The NSPCC has set up a FGM helpline that is in operation 24 hours a day and is staffed by specifically trained child protection counsellors who offer advice, information and assistance to members of the public and professionals. The NSPCC FGM helpline can be contacted on: 0800 028 3550 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find more in depth information about FGM on the NSPCC website.
If you are a child or young person and would like to speak to someone in confidence you can contact ChildLine on 0800 1111