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What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?

FGM is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other damage to the genital organs.  It is sometimes referred to as female circumcision, however, unlike the majority of male circumcisions, it can inflict severe and long term physical and psychological damage.  FGM is a cultural issue; it is not a religious issue and no religion requires FGM.  Some cultures, however, see FGM as a rite of passage which will make the girl more virtuous.  Victims are usually taken abroad for the procedure as it is illegal in this country.

Who is at risk from FGM?

FGM is typically inflicted on girls between 4 and 15 years of age. The majority of known cases are in 28 African countries including Somalia, Sudan, as well as others in the Middle East and Asia.

FGM and the law

FGM is child abuse and is illegal in the UK.  It is also illegal to plan or prepare for FGM. 

Since October 2015 it has been mandatory for teachers to report cases to the police where they discover FGM appears to have been carried out.

What are the effects of FGM?

FGM has no health benefits.  It harms girls and women in many ways as it involves removing and damaging normal and healthy genital tissue and interferes with the natural function of female bodies.

Immediate complications can include severe pain, shock, haemorrhage, tetanus or sepsis, urine retention, open sores in genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue.

Long term consequences can include recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, infertility, an increased risk of complications in child birth and a need for further surgery.

Many victims also suffer severe psychological trauma and long-term psychological problems.

What are the indications that a girl may be about to become a victim of FGM

  • The girl talks of a “special procedure” which will make her a woman or talk of a ceremony.  There may be talk of vaccinations.
  • Talk of a long holiday to the country of origin where the practice is prevalent.  This might not be enough on its own but might be significant when added to other concerns.
  • A mother or older sister has undergone FGM.

What are the indications that a girl is a victim of FGM?

  • Prolonged absence from school and a change in behaviour on return
  • Finding it difficult to sit still and appears to be experiencing discomfort or pain
  • Spending a long time at the toilet
  • Asking to be excused from Games
  • A sudden change in dress.

What should you do if you suspect a girl has been or is about to become a victim of FGM?

A member of staff who think a girl is at risk of FGM or that FGM has taken place must report this as a child protection issue to the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) and to the police on 101.

Members of the public should report this to the police on 101.  

The NSPCC also have a FGM helpline: 0800 028 3550.