Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genital organs are deliberately cut or injured, but where there is no medical reason for this to be done. It is very painful and dangerous and can seriously harm women and girls’ health. Some girls die from blood loss or infection as a direct result of the procedure. Women who have had FGM may have mental health conditions as a result, and are likely to have difficulty in giving birth.

FGM can be carried out on girls of all ages but may be more common between the ages of 5 and 10. It can be known as female circumcision, cutting or by other terms such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan among other names.

July 2016 - the FGM Cutting Season

As the school summer holidays commence many young girls are taken abroad by their families to have FGM performed. This allows time for the child to ‘heal’ over the long summer holiday period – mainly to avoid detection when they return to school.

A well-balanced news report on FGM from the BBC radio Victoria Derbyshire programme is available on the BBC iPlayer from here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0420r2n

The NHS has launched an campaign – this includes a video, called ‘FGM: The Facts’ on NHS Choices – www.nhs.uk/fgm The film features a roundtable table discussion led by Henry Bonsu, a well-known British African broadcaster, together with a panel of experts all speaking openly and candidly about FGM. Alongside the film, they have also produced some short social media videos which are being distributed via Facebook. The film will be broadcast on several UK African satellite TV channels from 9 – 31 July. This is to coincide with the summer holidays which is seen as a peak time for risk of FGM.

A letter has been issued by NHS England reminding all about the issues and responsibilities around FGM, including the mandatory duty to report. This can be downloaded here: NHS FGM Cutting Season letter 19 July 2016

Government statutory guidance

In April 2016 the government issued multi-agency guidelines on FGM for those with statutory duties to safeguard children and vulnerable adults. This can be downloaded here:

FGM Statutory guidance

What is the effect of FGM?

FGM causes serious harm to girls and women, including:

• constant pain

• repeated infections which can lead to infertility

• bleeding, cysts and abscesses

• problems passing urine or incontinence

• depression, flashbacks, self-harm

• labour/childbirth problems which can lead to death

FGM is illegal

FGM is illegal. It is child abuse and must never be carried out either here or abroad. It is also illegal to arrange for your child to be taken abroad for the procedure or help someone to carry out FGM in any way. Anyone found guilty of this faces up to 14 years in prison and may also be made to pay a fine.

What help is available for anyone affected by FGM?

If you have had FGM, you can get help and support from your GP or other healthcare professionals.

If you are concerned about any girl who may be at risk of FGM, tell a health professional or phone the NSPCC helpline:

0800 028 3550, 24hrs a day.

NSPCC FGM webpage

If you are worried that you may be pressured by your family or community to have FGM performed on your daughter, ask your GP, health visitor or other healthcare and social care professionals for help.

Everybody's Business is a youth-led website that raises awareness about FGM:


Government guidance

Government advice and help is available here: Female genital mutilation: help and advice

Advice for Professionals

From October 31 2015 it is mandatory for regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales to report known cases of FGM in under 18-year-olds to the police.

The duty applies where in the course of their professional duties, the professional either:

  • Is informed by the girl that an act of FGM has been carried out on her; or

  • Observes physical signs which appear to show an act of FGM has been carried out and has no reason to believe that the act was necessary for the girl’s physical or mental health or for purposes connected with labour or birth.

The professional is expected to make a referral within one month, this includes ensuring the family is aware of the report. The duty applies only to those cases which are visually identified or disclosed to a professional by the victim and is under 18yrs old).

The duty does not apply in relation to ‘at risk’ cases. In this instance Bexley safeguarding procedures must be followed.

The Editoral Board of the London Child Protection Procedures has agreed to adopt a flowchart for meeting the new FGM mandatory reporting requirements. This means that where a professional who is subject to the mandatory reporting duty has either been told by a girl that she has had FGM or has observed a physical sign appearing to show that a girl has had FGM s/he should personally report the matter to the police by calling 101. In all other cases, professionals should follow normal safeguarding processes.

FGM Mandatory reporting duty flowchart

Please note that in the box, ‘ASSESSMENT OF CASE’ the multi-agency safeguarding meeting should be a ‘strategy discussion’ and children’s social care and the police should jointly investigate the case.

London Child Protection Procedures

The Bexley FGM Working Group has produced practice guidance for all staff:

Bexley FGM Practice Guidance

Healthcare professionals

A package of support developed by the Department for Health and NHS England is available:

Quick guidance – a two-page summary of the duty including a process flowchart

Poster – a poster for health organisations to display about the duty

Training slides – a training presentation organisations can use to help them deliver 10 – 15 minute updates to staff to explain the duty

Video interviews with Vanessa Lodge, NHS E National FGM Prevention lead

information leaflet - for patients and their families which professionals can use to help when discussing making a report to the police.

The website for written materials is: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fgm-mandatory-reporting-in-healthcare

The video can also be found at www.nhs.uk/fgmguidelines

Other professionals

Home Office and Department for Education guidance is available here:

Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation: procedural information