en English

Female Genital Mutilation

Overview

Female genital mutilation FGM is a harmful and brutal practice of partially or completely removing, cutting, sewing or piercing of external female genitalia, breaching several human rights principles. It is illegal in the U.K.

It’s also known as female circumcision or cutting, and by other terms, such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan, among others.

FGM is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15, most commonly before puberty starts. It is an extremely inhuman and tragic demonstration of how the lives and existence of women could be dictated by the society and community.

​Female genital mutilation can often be associated with both long term and immediate medical, psychological and psycho-social adverse consequences which can be shock, excessive bleeding, acute and chronic pain, reproductive tract infection and sexually transmitted infection, causing complications during child birth, urinary and menstrual problems, psychological consequences like post traumatic stress disorder, many more and can even lead to death as a result of excessive bleeding or sepsis.

It is mostly performed on young girls and infants and is therefore a violation of the rights of the child. The practice also violates the rights to health, security and physical integrity of the person, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life.

FGM can make it difficult and painful to have sex. It can also result in reduced sexual desire and a lack of pleasurable sensation. Talk to your GP or another healthcare professional if you have sexual problems that you feel may be caused by FGM, as they can refer you to a special therapist who can help. In some cases, a surgical procedure called a Deinfibulation may be recommended, which can alleviate and improve some symptoms.

​Many women with FGM can find it difficult to become pregnant, and those who do conceive can have problems in childbirth.

If you are pregnant It’s really important to tell your midwife if you think this has happened to you so they can arrange the best appropriate care for you and you baby.

FGM can be an extremely traumatic experience that often cause emotional difficulties throughout life, including:

• Depression
• Anxiety
• Flashbacks to the time of the cutting
• Nightmares and other sleep problems

If you’re experiencing emotional or mental health problems that may be a result of FGM. Help and support is available and you can speak to a GP or Health Care Professional.

Surgery can be performed to open up the vagina, if necessary. This is called deinfibulation. It’s sometimes known as a reversal, the name is very misleading, as the procedure doesn’t replace any removed tissue or doesn’t undo any damage caused. But it can help many problems caused by FGM.

Surgery may be recommended for any issues or problems which are a result of FGM:

​• Women who are unable to have sex or have difficulty urinating
• Pregnant women at risk of problems during labour or delivery

Deinfibulation should be carried out before pregnancy if possible. It can be done during pregnancy or labour if necessary, but ideally it should be done before the last 2 months of pregnancy. The surgery involves making a cut to open the scar tissue over the entrance to the vagina. It’s usually performed under local anaesthetic in a clinic and you will not normally need to stay overnight. A small number of women need either a general anaesthetic or an injection in the back (epidural), which may involve a short stay in hospital.

​FGM is carried out for various cultural or religious and social reasons within families and communities, in the mistaken belief that it will be beneficial to the girl in some way for example, most communities it’s considered to be an honour for the family and young girls to have their genitalia mutilated. Those who have undergone the process are glorified ,rewarded, considered as more feminine, marriageable, clean and pure with their virginity intact. On the contrary those who do not comply often face with several untoward outcomes.

They are stigmatised, tortured, socially isolated and harassed and have to live with fear and insecurities of not getting married or not to be able to have a family. Many people, in spite of being aware of its harmful and traumatic consequences, choose their daughters to undergo it as a result of the immense social pressure. There are no acceptable reasons that justify FGM. It’s a harmful practice that has no health benefits. Girls are sometimes taken abroad for FGM, but they may not be aware this is the reason for their travel. Girls are more at risk of FGM being carried out during the summer holidays, as this allows more time for them to “heal” before they return to school.

​Girls who were born in the UK or are resident here but whose families originate from an FGM practising community are at greater risk of FGM happening to them.

Communities at particular risk of FGM in the UK originate from:

Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen.

The law and FGM:

FGM is illegal in the UK.​

It’s an offence to:​

• Perform FGM (including taking a child abroad for FGM)
• Help a girl perform FGM on herself in or outside the UK
• Help anyone perform FGM in the UK
• Help anyone perform FGM outside the UK on a UK national or resident
• Fail to protect a girl for whom you’re responsible from FGM
• Anyone who performs FGM can face up to 14 years in prison
• Anyone found guilty of failing to protect a girl from FGM can face up to 7 years in prison

It’s also illegal to take abroad a British national or permanent resident for FGM, or to help someone trying to do this. Someone can face up to 14 years in prison for carrying out FGM or helping it to take place.

If there’s immediate danger:

​• Contact the police if you or someone you know is in immediate danger of FGM.
• You should also contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office if you know a British national who’s already been taken abroad.
• If you’re abroad you can contact the nearest British embassy, commission or consulate.

If you or someone you know is at risk:

• Contact the NSPCC anonymously if you’re worried that a girl or young woman is at risk or is a victim of FGM.

NSPCC FGM Helpline
Email: fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk
Telephone: 0800 028 3550
From overseas: +44 (0)800 028 3550
Find out about call charges.

UK organisations you can get help and advice in the UK from:
Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development (FORWARD)
Daughters of Eve
In England you can find NHS specialist clinics for FGM.

In Scotland you can contact:
FGM Aware
AMINA – The Muslim Women’s Resource Centre
Saheliya
Shakti Women’s Aid

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but there’s no medical reason for this to be done.It’s also known as female circumcision or cutting, and by other terms, such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan, among others.FGM is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15, most commonly before puberty starts.It’s illegal in the UK and is child abuse.It’s very painful and can seriously harm the health of women and girls.

It can also cause long-term problems with sex, childbirth and mental health.

Getting help and support

All women and girls have the right to control what happens to their bodies and the right to say no to FGM.

Help is available if you have had FGM or you’re worried that you or someone you know is at risk.

  • If someone is in immediate danger, contact the police immediately by dialling 999.
  • If you’re concerned that someone may be at risk, contact the NSPCC helpline on 0800 028 3550 or fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk.
  • If you’re under pressure to have FGM performed on your daughter, ask a GP, your health visitor or another healthcare professional for help, or contact the NSPCC helpline.
  • If you have had FGM, you can get help from a specialist NHS gynaecologist or FGM service – ask a GP, your midwife or any other healthcare professional about services in your area. 

Read about National FGM Support Clinics and where to find them.

If you’re a health professional caring for a patient under 18 who’s had FGM, you have professional responsibilities to safeguard and protect her. 

Guidance and resources about FGM for healthcare staff are available on the GOV.UK website.

Types of FGM

There are 4 main types of FGM:

  • type 1 (clitoridectomy) – removing part or all of the clitoris
  • type 2 (excision) – removing part or all of the clitoris and the inner labia (the lips that surround the vagina), with or without removal of the labia majora (the larger outer lips)
  • type 3 (infibulation) – narrowing the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia
  • other harmful procedures to the female genitals, including pricking, piercing, cutting, scraping or burning the area

FGM is often performed by traditional circumcisers or cutters who do not have any medical training. But in some countries it may be done by a medical professional.

Anaesthetics and antiseptics are not generally used, and FGM is often carried out using knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades.

FGM often happens against a girl’s will without her consent, and girls may have to be forcibly restrained.

Effects of FGM

There are no health benefits to FGM and it can cause serious harm, including:

  • constant pain
  • pain and difficulty having sex
  • repeated infections, which can lead to infertility
  • bleeding, cysts and abscesses
  • problems peeing or holding pee in (incontinence)
  • depression, flashbacks and self-harm
  • problems during labour and childbirth, which can be life threatening for mother and baby

Some girls die from blood loss or infection as a direct result of the procedure.

FGM and sex

FGM can make it difficult and painful to have sex. It can also result in reduced sexual desire and a lack of pleasurable sensation.

Talk to your GP or another healthcare professional if you have sexual problems that you feel may be caused by FGM, as they can refer you to a special therapist who can help.

In some cases, a surgical procedure called a deinfibulation may be recommended, which can alleviate and improve some symptoms.

FGM and pregnancy

Some women with FGM may find it difficult to become pregnant, and those who do conceive can have problems in childbirth.

If you’re expecting a baby, your midwife should ask you if you have had FGM at your antenatal appointment.

It’s important to tell your midwife if you think this has happened to you so they can arrange appropriate care for you and you baby.

FGM and mental health

FGM can be an extremely traumatic experience that can cause emotional difficulties throughout life, including;

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • flashbacks to the time of the cutting
  • nightmares and other sleep problems

In some cases, women may not remember having the FGM at all, especially if it was performed when they were an infant.

Talk to a GP or another healthcare professional if you’re experiencing emotional or mental health problems that may be a result of FGM. Help and support is available.

Treatment for FGM (deinfibulation)

Surgery can be performed to open up the vagina, if necessary. This is called deinfibulation.

It’s sometimes known as a reversal, although this name is misleading as the procedure does not replace any removed tissue and will not undo the damage caused. 

But it can help many problems caused by FGM.

Surgery may be recommended for:

  • women who are unable to have sex or have difficulty peeing as a result of FGM
  • pregnant women at risk of problems during labour or delivery as a result of FGM

Deinfibulation should be carried out before getting pregnant, if possible.

It can be done in pregnancy or labour if necessary, but ideally should be done before the last 2 months of pregnancy.

The surgery involves making a cut (incision) to open the scar tissue over the entrance to the vagina.

It’s usually performed under local anaesthetic in a clinic and you will not normally need to stay overnight.

A small number of women need either a general anaesthetic or an injection in the back (epidural), which may involve a short stay in hospital.

Why FGM is carried out

FGM is carried out for various cultural, religious and social reasons within families and communities in the mistaken belief that it’ll benefit the girl in some way (for example, as a preparation for marriage or to preserve her virginity).

But there are no acceptable reasons that justify FGM. It’s a harmful practice that has no health benefits.

FGM usually happens to girls whose mothers, grandmothers or extended female family members have had FGM themselves, or if their father comes from a community where it’s carried out.

Where FGM is carried out

Girls are sometimes taken abroad for FGM, but they may not be aware this is the reason for their travel.

Girls are more at risk of FGM being carried out during the summer holidays, as this allows more time for them to “heal” before they return to school.

If you think there’s a risk of this happening to you, you can download the Statement Opposing FGM and take it with you on holiday to show your family.

Communities that perform FGM are found in many parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Girls who were born in the UK or are resident here but whose families originate from an FGM-practising community are at greater risk of FGM happening to them.

Communities at particular risk of FGM in the UK originate from:

  • Egypt
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gambia
  • Guinea
  • Indonesia
  • Ivory Coast
  • Kenya
  • Liberia
  • Malaysia
  • Mali
  • Nigeria
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Yemen

The law and FGM

FGM is illegal in the UK.

It’s an offence to:

  • perform FGM (including taking a child abroad for FGM)
  • help a girl perform FGM on herself in or outside the UK
  • help anyone perform FGM in the UK
  • help anyone perform FGM outside the UK on a UK national or resident
  • fail to protect a girl for whom you’re responsible from FGM

Anyone who performs FGM can face up to 14 years in prison.

Anyone found guilty of failing to protect a girl from FGM can face up to 7 years in prison.

Download the Statement Opposing FGM

The summer holidays are when many young girls are taken abroad, often to their family’s birth country, to have FGM performed.

The FGM statement, also known as the FGM health passport, highlights the fact FGM is a serious criminal offence in the UK.

If you’re worried about FGM, print out this statement, take it abroad with you and show it to your family.

Keep the declaration in your passport, purse or bag, and carry it with you all the time.

Download the statement opposing FGM on the GOV.UK website, which is also available in other languages.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/573623/2905975_FGM_Passport_v1_0A.PDF

National FGM Support Clinics (NFGMSCs) are community-based clinics that offer a range of support services for women with female genital mutilation (FGM).This service is available to women aged 18 or older who are not pregnant when they seek support.If you’re pregnantIf you’re under 18

How the clinics can help

National FGM Support Clinics are a place for women with FGM to discuss their health needs in a sensitive and non-judgmental environment.

The services are provided by an all-female team and include:

  • physical assessment and treatment (including deinfibulation if required)
  • emotional support and counselling
  • general information
  • access to FGM Health Advocates
  • referral to a specialist consultant, if needed

How to access a clinic

National FGM Support Clinics run either weekly or every 2 weeks.

Referrals from GPs and other health professionals are strongly encouraged, but you can also access a clinic through:

  • walk-in appointments
  • using a self-referral service

    Where to find a clinic

    North of England

    Information: 

    Leeds – Oakwood Medical Practice (Blossom Clinic)

    2 Amberton Terrace, Leeds LS8 3BZ

    Contact details:

    Phone: 07824 580 988

    Email: Leedsth-tr.blossomclinic.fgm@nhs.net

    Opening times:

    Tuesday (every 2 weeks)

    Midlands and East of England

    Information: 

    Birmingham Clinic

    Summerfield Health Centre, 134 Heath Street, Birmingham, B18 7AL

    Contact details:

    Phone: 07989 209 483

    Email: swbh.summerfieldfgm@nhs.net

    London

    Information: 

    Brent – SMS Medical Practice (Hibiscus Clinic)

    116 Chaplin Road, Wembley, Middlesex HA0 4UZ

    Contact details:

    Phone: 07776 673 996 or 07796 705 859

    E-mail: lnwh-tr.fgmbrentservices@nhs.net

    Opening times:

    Tuesday (every 2 weeks)

    Information: 

    Croydon – Edridge Practice (Calabash Clinic)

    Impact House, 2 Edridge Rd, Croydon CR0 1FE

    Contact details:

    Phone: 07469 413 290 or 07469 413 341

    E-mail: ch-tr.fgmcroydon@nhs.net

    Opening times:

    Monday (every 2 weeks)

    Information: 

    Hammersmith – Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital (Sunflower Clinic)

    Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital, Du Cane Road, London W12 0HS

    Contact details:

    Phone: 07730 970 738 or 07557 894 186

    E-mail: juliet.albert@nhs.net

    Opening times:

    Monday: 12pm to 8pm
    Tuesday: 12pm to 8pm
    Wednesday: 12pm to 8pm
    Thursday: 12pm to 8pm
    Friday: 9.30am to 5.30pm

    Information: 

    Tower Hamlets – Sylvia Pankhurst (Primrose Clinic)

    Mile End Hospital, Bancroft Road, London E1 4DG

    Contact details:

    Phone: 020 7377 7898 or 020 7377 7870 or 020 8223 8322

    E-mail: vanessa.apea@nhs.net or janet.barter@nhs.net

    Opening times:

    Monday: 12pm to 8pm
    Tuesday: 12pm to 8pm
    Wednesday: 12pm to 8pm
    Thursday: 12pm to 8pm
    Friday: 9.30am to 5.30pm

    Information: 

    Waltham Forest – Chingway Medical Centre (The WAHA Clinic)

    7 Ching Way, London E4 8YD

    Contact details:

    Phone: 0207 377 9643

    E-mail: bartshealth.fgmwhipps@nhs.net

    Opening times:

    Friday (every 2 weeks)

    South of England

    Information: 

    Bristol – Eastville Medical Practice (Rose Clinic)

    East Trees Health Centre, 100a Fishponds Road, Bristol BS5 6SA

    Contact details:

    Phone: 07813 016 911

    E-mail: bristolrose.clinic@nhs.net

    Helpful social media channels and conversations

    You can search using hashtags to see what people on Twitter are saying about FGM and using National FGM Support Clinics.

    You do not have to sign up to see what people are saying. But bear in mind that the NHS does not monitor these sites.

    #EndFGM Twitter conversations

    #FGMQuestions Twitter conversations

    #NFGMSC Twitter conversations

    Find out how to use Twitter if you’re new to it.

     

    (NHS)

Books related to Female Genital Mutilation

Cut: FGM in Britain Today

learn more

How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can: A Total Self-Healing Approach for Mind, Body, and Spirit

learn more

Videos related to Female Genital Mutilation

End female genital mutilation: join the Guardian's campaign

learn more

FGM 'being performed on UK babies' - BBC News

learn more

Female genital mutilation: the UK's hidden crime

learn more

The Truth About Female Genital Mutilation

learn more