What is Female Genital Mutilation?

The facts:

  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
  • The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
  • FGM is internationally recognised as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
  • An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
  • It is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15 years.
  • In Africa an estimated 92 million girls from 10 years of age and above have undergone FGM.
  • Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
  • It is illegal to practice FGM in the UK.
  • Every year in the UK, an average 20,000-24,000 girls are at risk. The average age for FGM is between 4-14 years of age, but can happen prior to, or after that (FGM Annual Report 2017, NHS Digital)
  • Figures from 2016-17 show there were 9,179 attendances to NHS services in which FGM was identified, treatment was given, or a woman with FGM had given birth to a baby girl (FGM Annual Report 2017, NHS Digital)

The law:

The Female Genital Mutilation Act was introduced in 2003 and came into effect in March 2004. The 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 multi-agency guidelines are available.

Multi-agency statutory guidance (updated October 2018).

Spotting the signs

Suspicions may arise in a number of ways that a child is being prepared for FGM to take place abroad. These include knowing that the family belongs to a community in which FGM is practised and is making preparations for the child to take a holiday, arranging vaccinations or planning absence from school. The child may also talk about a 'special procedure/ceremony' that is going to take place. Girls are at particular risk of FGM during summer holidays. This is the time when families may take their children abroad for the procedure. Many girls may not be aware that they may be at risk of undergoing FGM.

UK communities that are most at risk of FGM include Kenyans, Somalis, Sudanese, Sierra Leoneans, Egytians, Nigerians and Eritireans. However women from non-African communities that are at risk of FGM include: Yemeni, Kurdish, Indonesian and Pakistani women.

If you have concerns that a girl or young woman may be taken overseas for FGM then please contact the FCO on 0207 008 1500 or email fgm@fco.gov.uk

From October 2015, the new duty for professionals working in the "regulated professions", to notify the police if they discover that an act of FGM appears to have been carried out on a girl who is under 18 will come into force. Regulated professionals will cover healthcare professionals, teachers and social care workers. A failure to report the discovery in the course of their work could result in a referral to their professional body.


National FGM Centre

FGM Assessment Tool

FGM Poster Essex - Barnardos National FGM Centre 

Multi-agency statutory guidance.

FGM factsheet - Essex Police. Signs that a young person may be at risk of FGM or has undergone FGM. The factsheet includes details of the local processes to follow and the support available. National FGM Centre leaflets - What is FGM and About the Centre

Female Genital Mutilation: The Facts: Home Office leaflet

Tri.x briefing: Type 4 FGM: Labia Elongation

“Between two cultures”: a rapid PEER study exploring migrant communities’ views on female genital mutilation in Essex and Norfolk, UK (PDF)

Information on the national FGM centre which will be located in the Eastern Region

The DoH FGM Commissioning guide (March 2015)  

Female Genital Mutilation legislation in regards to the Serious Crime Act 2015 (Powerpoint)

Serious Crime Act (FGM) Factsheet

FGM: resource pack: Gov.uk

FGM case studies Gov.uk

Safeguarding Women and Girls at Risk of FGM - Guidance for NHS Organisations Gov.uk

Statement Opposing FGM Gov.uk

Information on the Mandatory Reporting Duty Gov.uk

FORWARD films: They include Needlecraft, first released in June, The True Story of Ghati and Rhobi and My Body, My Rules

'Petals' - App containing information about FGM, personal stories from those who have been affected, links to educational films, a quiz and tips on how to get involved in campaigning to end the practice.

Petals for Professionals - this app provides access to information and knowledge about FGM; the health impacts; the legal responsibilities of professionals; advice on initiating conversations; information for specific professions; and where to get support and advice.

'Everybody's Business' is a new website launched by young people to educate their peers about FGM and what they can do to stop it. 

What to do if concerned

Bereaved Parents - child's shoe FGM is child abuse and all agencies working with children in Essex must follow the SET Child Protection Procedures in the case of any concerns.

If you are concerned that a British citizen may be taken overseas for the purpose of FGM please call the Foreign and Commonwealth Office FCO on 0207 008 1500 or email fgm@fco.gov.uk

Since July 2015 it has been possible to obtain a Female Genital Mutilation Protection Order through the Family Court (like Forced Marriage Protection Orders). If you are concerned that someone may be taken abroad for FGM you can apply for a Protection Order. The terms of the order can be flexible and the court can include whatever terms it considers necessary and appropriate to protect the girl or woman.

Breast Ironing
“Breast Ironing” or “Breast Flattening” is the process whereby young pubescent girls breasts are ironed, massaged and/or pounded down through the use of hard or heated objects in order for the breasts to disappear or delay the development of the breasts entirely.  Much like FGM, it is a harmful cultural practice and is child abuse and classified as physical abuse therefore professionals must follow the SET Procedures.  Read more in this briefing - Trix
Learning and Development

See the Learning and Development section for further training information and available dates.

Free online course: Recognising  and preventing FGM - Developed for the Home Office by Virtual College. This course is useful for anyone who is interested in gaining an overview of FGM, particularly frontline staff in healthcare, police, border force and children’s social care.

Abuse linked to faith or belief

The National FGM Centre has released two YouTube videos discussing child abuse linked to faith or belief. The first is an animation telling the story of young boy in the UK who was accused of witchcraft by his aunt and uncle; the second offers advice to professionals about how to work with children who have been accused of witchcraft. The National FGM Centre has more information on abuse linked to faith or belief.

Branded a witch - Mardoche's story (YouTube video)

Mardoche Yembi - advice for professionals (YouTube video)