Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a form of violence against women and girls and it is considered child abuse and is illegal. It comprises of all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It may be carried out at any time in a girl’s life, from baby to womanhood, but the most common age for those FGM cases where the age is known is 5 to 9 year old girls. FGM can be seen as a pathway to womanhood and can also be a condition of marriage. Some communities believe that if a girl has not had it done she is deemed unhealthy, unclean, or unworthy. Parents can have very strong beliefs, genuinely thinking they are doing the right thing for their daughter, and in communities where all females have the procedure it can seem normal, then making it very difficult for girls to challenge this tradition. The FGM leaflet and FGM passport in Resources below can be supportive means for families.
FGM is child abuse and should be dealt with as part of existing child and adult safeguarding/ protection structures, policies and procedures. Please refer to the FGM Safeguarding Flowchart (Department of Health).
In the UK, anyone found guilty of an FGM offence or of helping somebody commit one, faces up to 14 years in prison, a fine, or both, regardless of where in the world the FGM takes place. Anyone found guilty of failing to protect a girl under the age of 16 from risk of FGM faces up to 7 years in prison, a fine, or both.
As of 31st October 2015 it has been mandatory to report cases of "known" FGM to the Police. The duty applies to all regulated professionals working within health or social care, and teachers. This mandatory requirement to report to police applies to ‘visually identified’ cases (the person observes physical signs on a girl appearing to show that an act of FGM has been carried out) or ‘verbally disclosed’ cases (a girl informs the person that an act of FGM – however described – has been carried out on her) of FGM in girls under 18. The mandatory reporting does not apply to suspected cases or where a child might be ‘at risk’ of FGM. Here is the NHS flowchart for the mandatory reporting process of FGM.
The Lambeth FGM multi-agency guidance (see Resources below) provides information on various aspects such as:
- identifying when a girl (including an unborn girl) or young woman may be at risk of FGM and responding appropriately to protect them;
- identifying when a girl or young woman has had FGM and responding appropriately to support them; and
- measures that can be implemented to prevent and ultimately eradicate the practice of FGM
- organisations in Lambeth that provide advice and support around FGM.
Please also refer to the London Child Protection Procedures on FGM.
Read how to support the FGM campaign that the LSCB runs at times of increased risk such as prior to school summer holidays:
...someone may be at risk of FGM:
- knowing both that the family of a girl 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
- a child may also talk about being taken “home” for a special visit to become a woman or a special procedure/ceremony that is going to take place
- a child may say an older female relative is coming especially to see her
...someone might have undergone FGM:
- prolonged absence from school or other activities with noticeable behaviour change on return, they may become withdrawn and possibly with bladder or menstrual problems
- find it difficult to stand or sit still and look uncomfortable, or may complain about pain between their legs
- talk of something somebody did to them that they are not allowed to talk about
- spend longer in the toilet than usual; because of bleeding and/or infection. Have frequent vaginal, urinal, or pelvic infections
- have blood born infections, including Hepatitis B & C, and HIV
- be reluctant to undergo any medical examinations
- may ask for help, but not be explicit about the problem due to fear or embarrassment
- develop emotional and mental health problems; self-harm or signs of child abuse
- Talk to them about your concerns, but use simple language, straightforward questions and be sensitive. Let them know that they can talk to you again.
If the risk is immediate, call 999
Call Africa Advocacy Foundation on 020 8698 4473 who work in Lambeth providing drop-in confidential counselling and advice as well as discussions through group meetings for women
Suggest they carry a 'FGM passport' with them, especially when they go abroad. It is a Statement opposing FGM available in several languages. They can show it to their family, it makes it clear that FGM is a serious criminal offence in UK
Make a referral to Children’s Social Care on 0207 926 3100; if you are a professional please fill in the Multi-Agency Referral Form (MARF) and forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com (secure email)
- Health and social care professionals can complete the e-learning session ‘Communication Skills for FGM consultations’ at www.e-lfh.org.uk which provides advice and training to support these discussions. Other professionals can watch a video on NHS Choices where women who have had FGM discuss how they would like to see professionals hold sensitive conversations about FGM: NHS.uk
- Go to www.fco.gov.uk/fgm for more information
Go to www.fco.gov.uk/fgm for more information on national and local organisations that can be contacted for advice and to refer to.
FGM protection orders offer a legal means to protect and safeguard victims and potential victims of FGM, read the fact sheet.
Resources for schools:
Leaflets, posters and campaigns:
FGM leaflet – the facts (Home Office)
NHS campaign about FGM launched 9 July 2016 (including video and foreign language leaflets)
'FGM passport' (2016, HM Government) (statement opposing FGM which can be taken abroad or shown to family with law and health reasoning, available in several languages)