Female genital mutilation
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is wrong and it is illegal. It is an extremely harmful practice with devastating health and psychological consequences for girls and women.
It involves the mutilation or ‘cutting’ of female genitals (your private parts) for non-medical reasons. It is also sometimes known as female circumcision, female genital cutting, or ‘sunna’. We don’t use these phrases as they don’t accurately describe the practice.
There are different types of female genital mutilation – it ranges from ‘symbolic pricks’, through to partial or total removal of the female genitalia. In its most extreme form, the genitals are removed and the vulva is stitched together.
Female genital mutilation is illegal in the UK, as is taking girls abroad to have it done to them.
It has been estimated that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of female genital mutilation in the UK each year, and that 66,000 women in the UK are living with its consequences. However, the true extent is unknown, due to the "hidden" nature of the crime.
You may also be affected by:
How it can affect you
The process of female genital mutilation is extremely traumatic, yet you may feel under pressure from your family and relatives to go through with the practice, and may even initially believe that it is the right thing to do because you have been told it is ‘tradition’, or that it will make you ‘clean’ or ‘pure’, and that you will suffer socially if you don’t have it done.
You might be worried what will happen to your family members if you tell someone that they are planning to put you through the procedure, either here or abroad. It is normal to feel this way, but it is still wrong for them to try and have this done to you.
There are no health benefits to FGM. It interferes with the normal, natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.
If you’re a child that has had this done to you, or are worried that you will do, you might feel anxious or depressed, and you may struggle to concentrate at school. It is normal to feel this way, and getting help and support from a trusted adult will help you to cope.
Female genital mutilation is generally carried out without anaesthetic, and the procedure can have lifelong consequences, including severe infections, complications in childbirth, and pain when you wee, during your periods, or when you have sex.
It can also affect you emotionally and mentally.
FGM is widely considered
to be a violation of the rights of girls and women. In the UK, FGM on young
girls is child abuse. It is a violation of a child’s right to life, their
bodily integrity, and their right to health.
As well as being very painful, female genital mutilation can cause:
- severe bleeding
- problems going to the toilet
- pain during sex
- recurring chronic pain
- psychological trauma, including flashbacks and depression
- period problems
- complications in childbirth
Some types of female genital mutilation involve narrowing the vaginal opening. This needs to be cut open again later for sexual intercourse and childbirth. Sometimes it’s stitched up again, which means the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures and experiences again and again, along with all the associated pain and risks.
What you can do
Whether you are a young person worried that female genital mutilation will be done to you, or you are an adult who has it carried out on you in the past, you are not alone and help is available.
You don’t have to report it to police if you don’t want to, but do try and find someone to confide in so you can talk through your options and find out the choices available to you. This could be a friend, relative, teacher or GP. You might find it scary or upsetting to confide in someone at first, but their support will help you.
If you’re going abroad and think it is because you are to be cut, take this statement opposing female genital mutilation with you. You can show it to your family so that they fully understand the dangers associated with it, and the risks of breaking the law.
If you have had female genital mutilation done to you and are in pain or feel unwell, go to your doctors’ or to your nearest accident and emergency department (A&E).
If you do report it to police, they can protect you if you think you are at risk from being cut.
Worried about someone else?
FGM affects UK communities.
FGM mostly takes place on young girls between infancy and 15, and sometimes on adult women. It is often the girl’s mum and dad, or extended family, who are responsible for arranging FGM. It is usually seen as an act of love, rather than cruelty, but it causes immense harm physically and emotionally. In the UK, FGM on young girls is child abuse.
Although it is illegal in the UK, some girls are taken abroad so that FGM can be carried out on them during school holidays, giving them time to ‘heal’ before they return to school.
UK communities that are most at risk include Kenyan, Somali, Sudanese, Sierra Leonean, Egyptian, Nigerian, and Eritrean. Non-African communities that practise FGM include Yemeni, Afghani, Jurdish, Indonesian, and Pakistani.
If you’re worried that your friend may be at risk of being cut, try to talk to them about it in private. You could suggest that they speak to a trusted adult or even contact ChildLine if they are worried about going to the police.
You can also call NSPCC's FGM helpline if you're worried a child is at risk of, or has had, FGM. It's free, anonymous and available 24/7: 0800 028 3550.
Spot the signs:
A young person about to get FGM done may be excited about a forthcoming trip abroad. They may talk about a special celebration.
If a child has had FGM done to them, they may:
- find it hard to walk, sit or stand
- take a long time in the bathroom or toilet
- appear withdrawn or behave unusually after an absence from school or trip abroad
- not want to have medical check-ups
- ask for help but appear embarrassed to tell you what the exact problem is
For professionals concerned about someone else contact The Guardian Project a free service covering the whole of Greater Manchester. It provides care and support for women and girls who may be at risk from, or who have been victims of, female genital mutilation.
Get help and report it
Even if you don’t want to report it to the police, tell a trusted friend or family member about it and use them for support. You can also search our directory to find help and support to help you cope and recover from what’s happened.
The police can protect you if you think you are at risk from female genital mutilation.
It is a crime and can carry up to a 14 year prison sentence. If you are worried that you or a friend is at risk, you can apply for an FGM Protection Order, which is a court order that can help to protect you if you:
- believe you are at risk of female genital mutilation
- have already had it committed on you
- know someone who is at risk of it
The courts can make an order in an emergency so that protection is in place straight away.
In an emergency: dial 999
If you think you’re in immediate danger of being cut, or being taken abroad for FGM, dial 999.
In a non-emergency: dial 101
If you’re not in immediate danger, you can call the police on 101.
If you’re worried about a child or a friend, you can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Crimestoppers is a charity, entirely independent of police. Crimestoppers never shares with police details of people who have got in touch.
If you’re a UK citizen abroad and you want help, call the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 020 7008 1500.
Health passport / statement opposing FGM
Download the FGM health passport and carry it with you. Also called the statement opposing female genital mutilation, the document is small enough to fit in your purse or wallet, and holds lots of help and information about FGM.
Health treatment if you have had FGM
Lots of help and support available from the NHS.
Useful links and information
ChildLine counsellors can offer you help and advice over the phone or online.
The NSPCC has a dedicated helpline to give advice to people worried about female genital mutilation. It's free, anonymous and is available 24/7 on 0800 028 3550. Please ring if you are concerned that a child’s welfare is at risk because of female genital mutilation and are seeking advice, information or support. Although callers’ details can remain anonymous, any information that could protect a child from abuse will be passed to the police or social services.
Foundation for Women’s Research and Development (FORWARD)
Tel: 0208 960 4000 | Email: email@example.com
AFRUCA – Africans Unite Against Child Abuse
Africans Unite against Child Abuse (AFRUCA) was established in May 2001 as a platform for advocating for the rights and welfare of African children following the deaths of children like Victoria Climbie, Jude Akapa and Damilola Taylor in the UK.
Tel: 0161 953 4711/4712 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Saheli Asian Women’s Refuge
A specialist service, dedicated to serving the particular needs that Asian women and their families face.
Tel: 0161 945 4187 | Email: email@example.com
Women’s domestic violence helpline for Greater Manchester
Tel: 0161 636 7525
New Step for the African Community (NESTAC) is a charity committed to improving the lives of Africans and immigrants in Greater Manchester. The provide drop-in groups across Greater Manchester for girls and women affected by female genital mutilation.
Tel: 01706 868993 | Mob: 07862 279289 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bolton FGM Project
Drop in groups for girls and women living in Bolton
Tel: 01204 399239
- Greater Manchester Police – information about FGM
- FGM info from Victim Support
- NHS Choices – about FGM
Greater Manchester FGM Forum
Following a multi-agency conference in Manchester, a Female Genital Mutilation Forum has been set up in Greater Manchester to bring together colleagues working with Adults and Children who may become, or have been, affected by Female Genital Mutilation in any of its forms.
The Guardian Project
The Guardian Project
The Guardian Project is a free service covering the whole of Greater Manchester. It provides care and support for women and girls who may be at risk from, or who have been victims of, female genital mutilation.
As well as supporting members of the public, they provide a much-needed single point of contact for frontline professionals concerned about someone in their care.
The project is delivered jointly by NESTAC and AFRUCA. For more information:
Phone: 07449 651 677