Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genital organs are injured or changed. FGM is a criminal offence in the UK and should be reported to the police and safeguarding agencies.
FGM is sometimes referred to as Female Circumcision or Female Genital Cutting, is defined by the World Health Organisation(WHO) as the range of procedures which involve ‘the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reason’. It is frequently a very traumatic and violent act for the victim and can cause harm in many ways. The practice can cause severe pain and there may be immediate and/or long-term health consequences, including mental health problems, difficulties in childbirth, causing danger to the child and mother; and/or death. FGM is illegal and causes women and children significant harm.
Up to 6,500 girls are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK each year. More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGM is concentrated.
FGM has no health benefits for girls and women and immediate effects include: severe pain, shock, bleeding, infections including tetanus, HIV and hepatitis B and C, inability to urinate and damage to nearby organs including the bowel.
FGM can sometimes cause death and long-term effects include: chronic vaginal and pelvic infections, menstrual problem, persistent urine infections, kidney damage and possible failure, cysts and abscesses, pain during sex, infertility, complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
Girls and women who have been subjected to FGM also suffer serious psycho-sexual, psychological and social consequences.
FGM is illegal and it is an offence to undertake the operation, assist a girl to mutilate her own genitalia, and to assist someone to undertake female genital mutilation of a UK national outside the UK. Anyone found guilty of the offence faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
The Department of Health’s guidance for professionals Safeguarding women and girls at risk of FGM was updated in May 2016 and can be accessed here
If you believe a girl is at risk of FGM please contact Hillingdon MASH to make a safeguarding referral.
The Serious Crime Act 2015 introduced the duty to report female genital mutilation (FGM).
All regulated health and social care professionals and teachers are now required to report known cases of FGM in girls under 18 identified as part of their work to the police within one month.
Further advice and support can also be found at
The following provides some useful guidance for professionals regarding the mandatory reporting of FGM.
Information specifically aimed at health staff is available here.